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lARVARD 
XASSICS 

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BEFORE 
THE MAST 



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THE HARVARD CLASSICS 



The Five-Foot Shelf of Books 



THE HARVARD CLASSICS 
EDITED BY CHARLES W. ELIOT, LL.D. 



Two Years 
Before the Mast 

AND TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 

By R. H. Dana, Jr. 

With Introduction and Notes 
Volume 23 




P. F. Collier & Son Corporation 

NEW YORK 



Copyright, 1909 
By p. F. Collier & Son 

By permission of, and by special arrangement with, 
Houghton Mifflin Company, publishers of the au- 
thorized edition of "Two Years Before the Mast." 

MANUPACTUKKD IN U. S. A. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

Chapter I 7 

Chapter II 10 

Chapter III 16 

Chapter IV . 22 

Chapter V 30 

Chapter VI 38 

Chapter VII 43 

Chapter VIII 50 

Chapter IX 56 

Chapter X 64 

Chapter XI 69 

Chapter XII 74 

Chapter XIII 77 

Chapter XIV 87 

Chapter XV gg 

Chapter XVI 112 

Chapter XVII 120 

Chapter XVIII 128 

Chapter XIX . .141 

Chapter XX 156 

Chapter XXI 165 

Chapter XXII . 171 

Chapter XXIII 177 

Chapter XXIV 195 

Chapter XXV 203 

Chapter XXVI 220 

Chapter XXVII 229 

I 



2 CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Chapter XXVIII 241 

Chapter XXIX 255 

Chapter XXX 276 

Chapter XXXI 288 

Chapter XXXII .310 

Chapter XXXIII 321 

Chapter XXXIV 332 

Chapter XXXV 339 

Chapter XXXVI 348 

Concluding Chapter 357 

Twenty-Four Years After 375 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

Richard Henry Dana, the second of that name, was born in Cam- 
bridge, Massachusetts, August i, 1815. He came of a stock that had 
resided there since the days of the early setdements; his grandfather, 
Francis Dana, had been the first American minister to Russia and later 
became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts; his father 
was distinguished as a man of letters. He entered Harvard College in 
1 831; but near the beginning of his third year an attack of measles left 
his eyesight so weak that study was impossible. Tired of the tedium of 
a slow convalescence, he decided on a sea-voyage; and choosing to go as 
a sailor rather than a passenger, he shipped from Boston on August 
14, 1834, on the brig "Pilgrim," bound for the coast of California. 
His experiences for the next tvyo years form the subject of the present 
volume. 

In the December following his return to Boston in 1836, Dana re- 
entered Harvard, the hero of his fellow students, graduating in the fol- 
lowing June. He next took up the study of law, at the same time teaching 
elocution in the College, and in 1840 he opened an office in Boston. 
While in the law school he had written out the narrative of his voyage, 
which he now published; and in the following year, 1841, issued "The 
Seaman's Friend." Both books were republished in England, and 
brought him an immediate reputation. 

After several years of the practise of law, during which he dealt 
largely with cases involving the rights of seamen, he began to take part 
in politics as an active member of the Free-Soil Party. During the opera- 
tion of the Fugitive-Slave Law he acted as counsel in behalf of the 
fugitives Shadrach, Sims, and Burns, and on one occasion suffered a 
serious assault as a consequence of his zeal. His prominence in these 
cases, along with his fame as a writer, brought him much social recog- 
nition on his visit to England in 1856. Three years later, his health gave 
way from overwork, and he set out on a voyage round the world, re- 
visiting California, where he made the observations which appear in the 
postscript to this book. 

On his return, Dana was appointed by Lincoln United States District 
Attorney for Massachusetts; and in his arguments before the Supreme 
Court in Washington in connection with the "Prize causes," dealing with 
the capture of private property at sea in time of war, he greatly increased 
an already brilliant legal reputation. 



4 INTRODUCTION 

After the close of the War he resigned his office of District Attorney, 
as he could not approve of President Johnson's policy of Reconstruction, 
and returned to private practice. This he relinquished in 1878, in order 
to go to Europe to devote himself to the preparation of a treatise on inter- 
national law; but the actual composition of this work was little more than 
begun when he died in Rome, January 6, 1882, and was buried in the 
Protestant Cemetery, where lie the ashes of Keats and Shelley. 

The record of Dana's life agrees with the picture of his temperament 
which he unconsciously painted in his first and greatest book. The ready 
sympathy for the suffering and the oppressed, the courage, unselfishness, 
and fair-mindedness which he exhibited on the merchant vessel when a 
boy of twenty, continued to characterize him throughout his long and 
distinguished career as lawyer and citizen. 

The merit of "Two Years Before the Mast" was recognized in both 
America and England immediately after its appearance, and it at once 
took rank as the most vivid and accurate picture in literature of the side, 
of life it sought to portray. W. Clark Russell, himself one of the best 
writers of sea-stories in English, called it "the greatest sea-book that was 
ever written in any language," and the convincing detail of its narrative 
led to comparisons with the masterpiece of Defoe. Its value and interest 
to-day are even greater than they were when it was written; for, while the 
purely human element remains the same, the account of the routine on 
board the old sailing ships, the picture of the trading on the coast of 
California, and the description of that country in the days before the 
discovery of gold had transformed its civilization, have all acquired a 
historical importance. Much is added, also, by the unaffected literary 
skill of the narrator. Such episodes as the flogging of Sam and John the 
Swede, the dry gale off Point Conception, the wedding fandango at 
Santa Barbara, the Kanakas in the oven, the funeral in San Pedro, the 
rounding of Cape Horn in the "Alert," have passed into the list of the 
memorable things in literature. 



PREFACE 

I AM unwilling to present this narrative to the public without a few 
words in explanation of my reasons for publishing it. Since Mr. Cooper's 
Pilot and Red Rover, there have been so many stories of sea-life written, 
that I should really think it unjustifiable in me to add one to the number 
without being able to give reasons in some measure warranting me in so 
doing. 

With the single exception, as I am quite confident, of Mr. Ames' enter- 
taining, but hasty and desultory work, called "Mariner's Sketches," all 
the books professing to give life at sea have been written by persons who 
have gained their experience as naval officers, or passengers, and of these, 
there are very few which are intended to be taken as narratives of facts. 

Now, in the first place, the whole course of life, and daily duties, the 
discipline, habits and customs of a man-of-war are very different from 
those of the merchant service; and in the next place, however entertain- 
ing and well written these books may be, and however accurately they 
may give sea-life as it appears to their authors, it must still be plain to 
every one that a naval officer, who goes to sea as a gentleman, "with his 
gloves on," (as the phrase is,) and who associates only with his fellow- 
officers, and hardly speaks to a sailor except through a boatswain's mate, 
must take a very different view of the whole matter from that which 
would be taken by a common sailor. 

Besides the interest which every one must feel in exhibitions of life in 
those forms in which he himself has never experienced it, there has been, 
of late years, a great deal of attention directed toward common seamen, 
and a strong sympathy awakened in their behalf. Yet I believe that, with 
the single exception which I have mentioned, there has not been a book 
written, professing to give their life and experiences, by one who has 
been of them, and can know what their life really is. A voice from the 
forecastle has hardly yet been heard. 

In the following pages I design to give an accurate and authentic nar- 
rative of a little more than two years spent as a common sailor, before the 
mast, in the American merchant service. It is written out from a journal 
which I kept at the time, and from notes which I made of most of the 
events as they happened; and in it I have adhered closely to fact in every 
particular, and endeavored to give each thing its true character. In so 
doing, I have been obliged occasionally to use strong and coarse expres- 
sions, and in some instances to give scenes which may be painful to nice 

5 



b PREFACE 

feelings; but I have very carefully avoided doing so, whenever I have not 
felt them essential to giving the true character of a scene. My design is, 
and it is this which has induced me to publish the book, to present the 
life of a common sailor at sea as it really is, — the light and the dark 
together. 

There may be in some parts a good deal that is unintelligible to the 
general reader; but I have found from my own experience, and from what 
I have heard from others, that plain matters of fact in relation to customs 
and habits of life new to us, and descriptions of life under new aspects, 
act upon the inexperienced through the imagination, so that we are 
hardly aware of our want of technical knowledge. Thousands read the 
escape of the American frigate through the British channel, and the chase 
and wreck of the Bristol trader in the Red Rover, and follow the minute 
nautical manoeuvres with breathless interest, who do not know the name 
of a rope in the ship; and perhaps with none the less admiration and 
enthusiasm for their want of acquaintance with the professional detail. 

In preparing this narrative I have carefully avoided incorporating into 
it any impressions but those made upon me by the events as they 
occurred, leaving to my concluding chapter, to which I shall respectfully 
call the reader's attention, those views which have been suggested to me 
by subsequent reflection. 

These reasons, and the advice of a few friends, have led me to give 
this narrative to the press. If it shall interest the general reader, and call 
more attention to the welfare of seamen, or give any information as to 
their real condition, which may serve to raise them in the rank of beings, 
and to promote in any measure their religious and moral improvement, 
and diminish the hardships of their daily life, the end of its publication 
will be answered. 

R. H. D., Jr. 

Boston, July, 1840. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 



CHAPTER I 

Departure 

THE fourteenth of August was the day fixed upon for the 
sailing of the brig Pilgrim on her voyage from Boston round 
Cape Horn to the western coast of North America. As she 
was to get under weigh early in the afternoon, I made my appear- 
ance on board at twelve o'clock, in full sea-rig, and with my chest, 
containing an outfit for a two or three years' voyage, which I had 
undertaken from a determination to cure, if possible, by an entire 
change of life, and by a long absence from books and study, a weak- 
ness of the eyes, which had obliged me to give up my pursuits, and 
which no medical aid seemed likely to cure. 

The change from the tight dress coat, silk cap and kid gloves of 
an undergraduate at Cambridge, to the loose duck trowsers, checked 
shirt and tarpaulin hat of a sailor, though somewhat of a trans- 
formation, was soon made, and I supposed that I should pass very 
well for a jack tar. But it is impossible to deceive the practised eye 
in these matters; and while I supposed myself to be looking as salt 
as Neptune himself, I was, no doubt, known for a landsman by every 
one on board as soon as I hove in sight. A sailor has a peculiar cut 
to his clothes, and a way of wearing them which a green hand can 
never get. The trowsers, tight round the hips, and thence hanging 
long and loose round the feet, a superabundance of checked shirt, a 
low-crowned, well varnished black hat, worn on the back of the 
head, with half a fathom of blaCk ribbon hanging over the left eye, 
and a peculiar tie to the black silk neckerchief, with sundry other 
minutiz, are signs, the want of which betray the beginner, at once. 
Besides the points in my dress which were out of the way, doubtless 
my complexion and hands were enough to distinguish me from the 



8 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

regular salt, who, with a sunburnt cheek, wide step, and rolling gait, 
swings his bronzed and toughened hands athwartships, half open, 
as though just ready to grasp a rope. 

"With all my imperfections on my head," I joined the crew, and 
we hauled out into the stream, and came to anchor for the night. 
The next day we were employed in preparations for sea, reeving 
studding-sail gear, crossing royal yards, putting on chafing gear, 
and taking on board our powder. On the following night, I stood 
my first watch. I remained awake nearly all the first part of the 
night from fear that I might not hear when I was called; and when 
I went on deck, so great were my ideas of the importance of my 
trust, that I walked regularly fore and aft the whole length of the 
vessel, looking out over the bows and taffrail at each turn, and was 
not a little surprised at the coolness of the old salt whom I called 
to take my place, in stowing himself snugly away under the long 
boat, for a nap. That was a sufficient look-out, he thought, for a 
fine night, at anchor in a safe harbor. 

The next morning was Saturday, and a breeze having sprung up 
from the southward, we took a pilot on board, hove up our anchor, 
and began beating down the bay. I took leave of those of my friends 
who came to see me off, and had barely opportunity to take a last 
look at the city, and well-known objects, as no time is allowed on 
board ship for sentiment. As we drew down into the lower harbor, 
we found the wind ahead in the bay, and were obliged to come to 
anchor in the roads. We remained there through the day and a part 
of the night. My watch began at eleven o'clock at night, and I re- 
ceived orders to call the captain if the wind came out from the west- 
ward. About midnight the wind became fair, and having called the 
captain, I was ordered to call all hands. How I accomplished this 
I do not know, but I am quite sure that I did not give the true 
hoarse, boatswain call of "A-a-11 ha-a-a-nds! up anchor, a-ho-oy!" In 
a short time every one was in motion, the sails loosed, the yards 
braced, and we began to heave up the anchor, which was our last 
hold upon Yankee land. I could take but little part in all these 
preparations. My little knowledge of a vessel was all at fault. Un- 
intelligible orders were so rapidly given and so immediately executed; 
there was such a hurrying about, and such an intermingling ol 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 9 

strange cries and stranger actions, that I was completely bewildered. 
There is not so helpless and pitiable an object in the world as a 
landsman beginning a sailor's life. At length those peculiar, long- 
drawn sounds, which denote that the crew are heaving at the wind- 
lass, began, and in a few moments we were under weigh. The noise 
of the water thrown from the bows began to be heard, the vessel 
leaned over from the damp night breeze, and rolled with the heavy 
ground swell, and we had actually begun our long, long journey. 
This was literally bidding "good night" to my native land. 



CHAPTER II 
First Impressions — "Sail Ho!" 

THE first day we passed at sea was the Sabbath. As we were 
just from port, and there was a great deal to be done on 
board, we were kept at work all day, and at night the 
watches were set, and everything put into sea order. When we 
were called aft to be divided into watches, I had a good specimen 
of the manner of a sea captain. After the division had been made, 
he gave a short characteristic speech, walking the quarter deck 
with a cigar in his mouth, and dropping the words out between 
the puffs. 

"Now, my men, we have begun a long voyage. If we get along 
well together, we shall have a comfortable time; if we don't, we 
shall have hell afloat. — All you've got to do is to obey your orders 
and do your duty like men, — then you'll fare well enough; — if you 
don't, you'll fare hard enough, — I can tell you. If we pull together, 
you'll find me a clever fellow; if we don't, you'll find me a bloody 
rascal. — That's all I've got to say. — Go below, the larboard watch!" 
I being in the starboard, or second mate's watch, had the oppor- 
tunity of keeping the first watch at sea. S , a young man, mak- 
ing, like myself, his first voyage, was in the same watch, and as he 
was the son of a professional man, and had been in a counting- 
room in Boston, we found that we had many friends and topics in 
common. We talked these matters over, — Boston, what our friends 
were probably doing, our voyage, etc., until he went to take his turn 
at the look-out, and left me to myself. I had now a fine time for 
reflection. I felt for the first time the perfect silence of the sea. The 
officer was walking the quarter deck, where I had no right to go, 
one or two men were talking on the forecastle, whom I had little 
inclination to join, so that I was left open to the full impression of 
everything about me. However much I was affected by the beauty 
of the sea, the bright stars, and the clouds driven swiftly over them. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST II 

I could not but remember that I was separating myself from all the 
social and intellectual enjoyments of life. Yet, strange as it may 
seem, I did then and afterwards take pleasure in these reflections, 
hoping by them to prevent my becoming insensible to the value of 
what I was leaving. 

But all my dreams were soon put to flight by an order from the 
officer to trim the yards, as the wind was getting ahead; and I 
could plainly see by the looks the sailors occasionally cast to wind- 
ward, and by the dark clouds that were fast coming up, that we 
had bad weather to prepare for, and had heard the captain say 
that he expected to be in the Gulf Stream by twelve o'clock. In a 
few minutes eight bells were struck, the watch called, and we went 
below. I now began to feel the first discomforts of a sailor's life. 
The steerage in which I lived was filled with coils of rigging, spare 
sails, old junk and ship stores, which had not been stowed away. 
Moreover, there had been no berths built for us to sleep in, and 
we were not allowed to drive nails to hang our clothes upon. The 
sea, too, had risen, the vessel was rolling heavily, and everything 
was pitched about in grand confusion. There was a complete "hur- 
rah's nest," as the sailors say, "everything on top and nothing at 
hand." A large hawser had been coiled away upon my chest; my 
hats, boots, mattress and blankets had all fetched away and gone 
over to leeward, and were jammed and broken under the boxes and 
coils of rigging. To crown all, we were allowed no light to find 
anything with, and I was just beginning to feel strong symptoms 
of sea-sickness, and that listlessness and inactivity which accompany 
it. Giving up all attempts to collect my things together, I lay down 
upon the sails, expecting every moment to hear the cry of "all hands 
ahoy," which the approaching storm would soon make necessary. 
I shortly heard the rain-drops falling on deck, thick and fast, and 
the watch evidently had their hands full of work, for I could hear 
the loud and repeated orders of the mate, the trampling of feet, the 
creaking of blocks, and all the accompaniments of a coming storm. 
In a few minutes the slide of the hatch was thrown back, which let 
down the noise and tumult of the deck still louder, the loud cry of 
"All hands, ahoy! tumble up here and take in sail," saluted our 
ears, and the hatch was quickly shut again. When I got upon deck, 



12 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

a new scene and a new experience was before me. The Jittle brig 
was close hauled upon the wind, and lying over, as it then seemed 
to me, nearly upon her beam ends. The heavy head sea was beating 
against her bows with the noise and force almost of a sledge hammer, 
and flying over the deck, drenching us completely through. The 
topsail halyards had been let go, and the great sails were filling out 
and backing against the masts with a noise like thunder. The wind 
was whistling through the rigging, loose ropes flying about; loud 
and, to me, unintelligible orders constantly given and rapidly 
executed, and the sailors "singing out" at the ropes in their hoarse 
and peculiar strains. In addition to all this, I had not got my "sea 
legs on," was dreadfully sick, with hardly strength enough to hold 
on to anything, and it was "pitch dark." This was my state when 
I was ordered aloft, for the first time, to reef topsails. 

How I got along, I cannot now remember. I "laid out" on the 
yards and held on with all my strength. I could not have been of 
much service, for I remember having been sick several times before 
I left the topsail yard. Soon all was snug aloft, and we were again 
allowed to go below. This I did not consider much of a favor, for 
the confusion of everything below, and that inexpressible sickening 
smell, caused by the shaking up of the bilge-water in the hold, 
made the steerage but an indifferent refuge from the cold, wet 
decks. I had often read of the nautical experiences of others, but I 
felt as though there could be none worse than mine; for in addition 
to every other evil, I could not but remember that this was only the 
first night of a two years' voyage. When we were on deck we were 
not much better off, for we were continually ordered about by the 
officer, who said that it was good for us to be in motion. Yet any- 
thing was better than the horrible state of things below. I remember 
very well going to the hatchway and putting my head down, when 
I was oppressed by nausea, and always being relieved immediately. 
It was as good as an emetic. 

This state of things continued for two days. 

Wednesday, Aug. 20th. We had the watch on deck from four till 
eight, this morning. When we came on deck at four o'clock, we 
found things much changed for the better. The sea and wind had 
gone down, and the stars were out bright. I experienced a cor- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I3 

responding change in my feelings; yet continued extremely weak 
from my sickness. I stood in the waist on the weather side, watch- 
ing the gradual breaking of the day, and the first streaks of the 
early light. Much has been said of the sun-rise at sea; but it will not 
compare with the sun-rise on shore. It wants the accompaniments 
of the songs of birds, the awakening hum of men, and the glancing 
of the first beams upon trees, hills, spires, and house-tops, to give 
it life and spirit. But though the actual rise of the sun at sea is not 
so beautiful, yet nothing will compare with the early breaf^ing of day 
upon the wide ocean. 

There is something in the first grey streaks stretching along the 
eastern horizon and throwing an indistinct light upon the face of 
the deep, which combines with the boundlessness and unknown 
depth of the sea around you, and gives one a feeling of loneliness, 
of dread, and of melancholy foreboding, which nothing else in 
nature can give. This gradually passes away as the light grows 
brighter, and when the sun comes up, the ordinary monotonous sea 
day begins. 

From such reflections as these, I was aroused by the order from 
the officer, "Forward there! rig the head-pump!" I found that no 
time was allowed for day-dreaming, but that we must "turn to" at 
the first light. Having called up the "idlers," namely, carpenter, 
cook, steward, etc., and rigged the pump, we commenced washing 
down the decks. This operation, which is performed every morning 
at sea, takes nearly two hours; and I had hardly strength enough 
to get through it. After we had finished, swabbed down, and coiled 
up the rigging, I sat down on the spars, waiting for seven bells, 
which was the sign for breakfast. The officer, seeing my lazy posture, 
ordered me to slush the main-mast from the royal-mast-head, down. 
The vessel was then rolling a little, and I had taken no sustenance 
for three days, so that I felt tempted to tell him that I had rather 
wait till after breakfast; but I knew that I must "take the bull by 
the horns," and that if I showed any sign of want of spirit or of 
backwardness, that I should be ruined at once. So I took my 
bucket of grease and climbed up to the royal-mast-head. Here the 
rocking of the vessel, which increases the higher you go from the 
foot of the mast, which is the fulcrum of the lever, and the smell of 



14 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

the grease, which offended my fastidious senses, upset my stomach 
again, and I was not a httle rejoiced when I got upon the com- 
parative terra firma of the deck. In a few minutes seven bells were 
struck, the log hove, the watch called, and we went to breakfast. 
Here I cannot but remember the advice of the cook, a simple- 
hearted African. "Now," says he, "my lad, you are well cleaned out; 
you haven't got a drop of your 'long-shore swash aboard of you. 
You must begin on a new tack, — pitch all your sweetmeats over- 
board, and turn-to upon good hearty salt beef and sea bread, and 
I'll promise you, you'll have your ribs well sheathed, and be as 
hearty as any of 'em, afore you are up to the Horn." This would be 
good advice to give to passengers, when they speak of the little 
niceties which they have laid in, in case of sea-sickness. 

I cannot describe the change which half a pound of cold salt beef 
and a biscuit or two produced in me. I was a new being. We had a 
watch below until noon, so that I had some time to myself; and 
getting a huge piece of strong, cold, salt beef from the cook, I kept 
gnawing upon it until twelve o'clock. When we went on deck I 
felt somewhat like a man, and could begin to learn my sea duty 
with considerable spirit. At about two o'clock we heard the loud 
cry of "sail ho!" from aloft, and soon saw two sails to windward, 
going directly athwart our hawse. This was the first time that I 
had seen a sail at sea. I thought then, and have always since, that 
it exceeds every other sight in interest and beauty. They passed to 
leeward of us, and out of hailing distance; but the captain could 
read the names on their sterns with the glass. They were the ship 
Helen Mar, of New York, and the brig Mermaid, of Boston. They 
were both steering westward, and were bound in for our "dear 
native land." 

Thursday, Aug. 21st. This day the sun rose clear, we had a fine 
wind, and everything was bright and cheerful. I had now got my 
sea legs on, and was beginning to enter upon the regular duties of 
a sea-hfe. About six bells, that is, three o'clock P. M., we saw a 
sail on our larboard bow. I was very anxious, like every new sailor, 
to speak her. She came down to us, backed her main-topsail, and 
the two vessels stood "head on," bowing and curvetting at each 
other like a couple of war-horses reined in by their riders. It was 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I5 

the first vessel that I had seen near, and I was surprised to find out 
how much she rolled and pitched in so quiet a sea. She plunged 
her head into the sea, and then, her stern settling gradually down, 
her huge bows rose up, showing the bright copper, and her stern, 
and breast-hooks dripping, like old Neptune's locks, with the brine. 
Her decks were filled with passengers who had come up at the 
cry of "sail ho," and who by their dress and features appeared to be 
Swiss and French emigrants. She hailed us at first in French, but 
receiving no answer, she tried us in English. She was the ship La 
Carolina, from Havre, for New York. We desired her to report the 
brig Pilgrim, from Boston, for the north-west coast of America, five 
days out. She then filled away and left us to plough on through our 
waste of waters. This day ended pleasandy; we had got into regular 
and comfortable weather, and into that routine of sea-life which is 
only broken by a storm, a sail, or the sight of land. 



CHAPTER III 
Ship's Duties — Tropics 

Iks we had now a long "spell" of fine weather, without any 
ZJk incident to break the monotony of our lives, there can be 
X .^ no better place to describe the duties, regulations, and cus- 
toms of an American merchantman, of which ours was a fair 
specimen. 

The captain, in the first place, is lord paramount. He stands no 
watch, comes and goes when he pleases, and is accountable to no 
one, and must be obeyed in everything, without a question, even 
from his chief officer. He has the power to turn his officers off 
duty, and even to break them and make them do duty as sailors 
in the forecastle. Where there are no passengers and no supercargo, 
as in our vessel, he has no companion but his own dignity, and no 
pleasures, unless he differs from most of his kind, but the con- 
sciousness of possessing supreme power, and, occasionally, the 
exercise of it. 

The prime minister, the official organ, and the active and super- 
intending officer, is the chief mate. He is first lieutenant, boatswain, 
sailing-master, and quarter-master. The captain tells him what he 
wishes to have done, and leaves to him the care of overseeing, of 
allotting the work, and also the responsibility of its being well done. 
The mate (as he is always called, par excellence) also keeps the 
log-book, for which he is responsible to the owners and insurers, 
and has the charge of the stowage, safe keeping, and delivery of 
the cargo. He is also, ex-officio, the wit of the crew; for the captain 
does not condescend to joke with the men, and the second mate no 
one cares for; so that when "the mate" thinks fit to entertain "the 
people" with a coarse joke or a litde practical wit, every one feels 
bound to laugh. 

The second mate's is proverbially a dog's berth. He is neither 
officer nor man. The men do not respect him as an officer, and he 

i6 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I7 

is obliged to go aloft to reef and furl the topsails, and to put his 
hands into the tar and slush, with the rest. The crew call him the 
"sailors' waiter," as he has to furnish them with spun-yarn, marline, 
and all other stuffs that they need in their work, and has charge 
of the boatswain's locker, which includes serving-boards, marline- 
spikes, etc., etc. He is expected by the captain to maintain his 
dignity and to enforce obedience, and still is kept at a great distance 
from the mate, and obliged to work with the crew. He is one to 
whom little is given and of whom much is required. His wages are 
usually double those of a common sailor, and he eats and sleeps in 
the cabin; but he is obliged to be on deck nearly all his time, and 
eats at the second table, that is, makes a meal out of what the 
captain and chief mate leave. 

The steward is the captain's servant, and has charge of the pantry, 
from which every one, even the mate himself, is excluded. These 
distinctions usually find him an enemy in the mate, who does not 
like to have any one on board who is not entirely under his control; 
the crew do not consider him as one of their number, so he is left 
to the mercy of the captain. 

The cook is the patron of the crew, and those who are in his 
favor can get their wet mittens and stockings dried, or light their 
pipes at the galley on the night watch. These two worthies, together 
with the carpenter and sailmaker, if there be one, stand no watch, 
but, being employed all day, are allowed to "sleep in" at night, 
unless all hands are called. 

The crew are divided into two divisions, as equally as may be, 
called the watches. Of these the chief mate commands the larboard, 
and the second mate the starboard. They divide the time between 
them, being on and off duty, or, as it is called, on deck and below, 
every other four hours. If, for instance, the chief mate with the 
larboard watch have the first night-watch from eight to twelve; at 
the end of the four hours, the starboard watch is called, and the 
second mate takes the deck, while the larboard watch and the first 
mate go below until four in the morning, when they come on deck 
again and remain until eight; having what is called the morning 
watch. As they will have been on deck eight hours out of twelve, 
while those who had the middle watch — ^from twelve to four, will 



1 8 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

only have been up four hours, they have what is called a "forenoon 
watch below," that is, from eight, A. M., till twelve, M. In a man- 
of-war, and in some merchantmen, this alternation of watches is 
kept up throughout the twenty-four hours; but our ship, like most 
merchantmen, had "all hands" from twelve o'clock till dark, except 
in bad weather, when we had "watch and watch." 

An explanation of the "dog watches" may, perhaps, be of use 
to one who has never been at sea. They are to shift the watches 
each night, so that the same watch need not be on deck at the same 
hours. In order to effect this, the watch from four to eight, P. M., 
is divided into two half, or dog watches, one from four to six, and 
the other from six to eight. By this means they divide the twenty- 
four hours into seven watches instead of six, and thus shift the hours 
every night. As the dog watches come during twilight after the 
day's work is done, and before the night watch is set, they are the 
watches in which everybody is on deck. The captain is up, walking 
on the weather side of the quarter-deck, the chief mate on the leeside, 
and the second mate about the weather gangway. The steward has 
finished his work in the cabin, and has come up to smoke his pipe 
with the cook in the galley. The crew are sitting on the windlass 
or lying on the forecastle, smoking, singing, or telling long yarns. 
At eight o'clock, eight bells are struck, the log is hove, the watch set, 
the wheel reHeved, the galley shut up, and the other watch goes 
below. 

The morning commences with the watch on deck's "turning-to" 
at day-break and washing down, scrubbing and swabbing the decks. 
This, together with filling the "scuttled butt" with fresh water, and 
coiling up the rigging, usually occupies the time until seven bells, 
(half after seven,) when all hands get breakfast. At eight, the day's 
work begins, and lasts until sundown, with the exception of an 
hour for dinner. 

Before I end my explanations, it may be well to define a day's 
tvor\, and to correct a mistake prevalent among landsmen about a 
sailor's life. Nothing is more common than to hear people say — 
"Are not sailors very idle at sea? — what can they find to do?" This 
is a very natural mistake, and being very frequently made, it is one 
which every sailor feels interested in having corrected. In the first 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I9 

place, then, the discipHne of the ship requires every man to be at 
work upon something when he is on deck, except at night and on 
Sundays. Except at these times, you will never see a man, on board 
a well-ordered vessel, standing idle on deck, sitting down or leaning 
over the side. It is the officers' duty to keep every one at work, 
even if there is nothing to be done but to scrape the rust from the 
chain cables. In no state prison are the convicts more regularly set 
to work, and more closely watched. No conversation is allowed 
among the crew at their duty, and though they frequently do talk 
when aloft, or when near one another, yet they always stop when 
an officer is nigh. 

With regard to the work upon which the men are put, it is a 
matter which probably would not be understood by one who has 
not been at sea. When I first left port, and found that we were 
kept regularly employed for a week or two, I supposed that we 
were getting the vessel into sea trim, and that it would soon be 
over, and we should have nothing to do but to sail the ship but I 
found that it continued so for two years, and at the end of the two 
years there was as much to be done as ever. As has often been said, 
a ship is like a lady's watch, always out of repair. When first leaving 
port, studding-sail gear is to be rove, all the running rigging to be 
examined, that which is unfit for use to be got down, and new 
rigging rove in its place: then the standing rigging is to be over- 
hauled, replaced, and repaired, in a thousand different ways; and 
wherever any of the numberless ropes or the yards are chafing or 
wearing upon it, there "chafing gear," as it is called, must be put on. 
This chafing gear consists of worming, parcelling, rounding, battens, 
and service of all kinds — both rope-yarns, spun-yarn, marline and 
seizing-stuffs. Taking off, putting on, and mending the chafing 
gear alone, upon a vessel, would find constant employment for two 
or three men, during working hours, for a whole voyage. 

The next point to be considered is, that all the "small stuffs" which 
are used on board a ship — such as spun-yarn, marline, seizing-stuff, 
etc., etc. — ^are made on board. The owners of a vessel buy up 
incredible quantities of "old junk," which the sailors unlay, after 
drawing out the yarns, knot them together, and roll them up in 
balls. These "rope-yarns" are constantly used for various purposes, 



20 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

but the greater part is manufactured into spun-yarn. For this pur- 
pose every vessel is furnished with a "spun-yarn winch"; which is 
very simple, consisting of a wheel and spindle. This may be heard 
constantly going on deck in pleasant weather; and we had employ- 
ment, during a great part of the time, for three hands in drawing 
and knotting yarns, and making spun-yarn. 

Another method of employing the crew is, "setting up" rigging. 
Whenever any of the standing rigging becomes slack, (which is 
continually happening,) the seizings and coverings must be taken 
off, tackles got up, and after the rigging is bowsed well taught, the 
seizings and coverings replaced; which is a very nice piece of work. 
There is also such a connection between different parts of a vessel, 
that one rope can seldom be touched without altering another. You 
cannot stay a mast aft by the back stays, without slacking up the 
head stays, etc., etc. If we add to this all the tarring, greasing, oiling, 
varnishing, painting, scraping, and scrubbing which is required in 
the course of a long voyage, and also remember this is all to be 
done in addition to watching at night, steering, reefing, furling, 
bracing, making and setting sail, and pulling, hauling and climbing 
in every direction, one will hardly ask, "What can a sailor find to 
do at sea?" 

If, after all this labor — after exposing their lives and limbs in 
storms, wet and cold, 

"Wherein the cub-drawn bear would couch: 
The lion and the belly-pinched wolf 
Keep their furs dry; — " 

the merchants and captains think that they have not earned their 
twelve dollars a month, (out of which they clothe themselves,) and 
their salt beef and hard bread, they keep them picking oakum — 
ad infinitum. This is the usual resource upon a rainy day, for then 
it will not do to work upon rigging; and when it is pouring down 
in floods, instead of letting the sailors stand about in sheltered places, 
and talk, and keep themselves comfortable, they are separated to 
different parts of the ship and kept at work picking oakum. I have 
seen oakum stuff placed about in different parts of the ship, so 
that the sailors might not be idle in the snatches between the 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 21 

frequent squalls upon crossing the equator. Some officers have been 
so driven to find work for the crev/ in a ship ready for sea, that 
they have set them to pounding the anchors (often done) and 
scraping the chain cables. The "Philadelphia Catechism" is, 

"Six days shalt thou labor and do all thou art able, 
And on the seventh — holystone the decks and scrape the cable." 

This kind of work, of course, is not kept up off Cape Horn, Cape 
of Good Hope, and in extreme north and south latitudes; but I 
have seen the decks washed down and scrubbed, when the water 
would have frozen if it had been fresh; and all hands kept at work 
upon the rigging, when we had on our pea-jackets, and our hands 
so numb that we could hardly hold our marline-spikes. 

I have here gone out of my narrative course in order that any 
who may read this may form as correct an idea of a sailor's life and 
duty as possible. I have done it in this place because, for some time, 
our life was nothing but the unvarying repetition of these duties, 
which can be better described together. Before leaving this de- 
scription, however, I would state, in order to show landsmen how 
little they know of the nature of a ship, that a ship-carpenter is 
kept in constant employ during good weather on board vessels 
which are in, what is called, perfect sea order. 



CHAPTER IV 
A Rogue — Trouble on Board — ^"Land Ho!" — Pompero — Cape Horn 

AFTER speaking the Carolina, on the 21st August, nothing 
/ \ occurred to break the monotony o£ our life until 
JL JL. Friday, September ^th, when we saw a sail on our weather 
(starboard) beam. She proved to be a brig under English colors, 
and passing under our stern, reported herself as forty-nine days 
from Buenos Ayres, bound to Liverpool. Before she had passed us, 
"sail ho!" was cried again, and we made another sail, far on our 
weather bow, and steering athwart our hawse. She passed out of 
hail, but we made her out to be an hermaphrodite brig, with 
Brazilian colors in her main rigging. By her course, she must have 
been bound from Brazil to the south of Europe, probably Portugal. 

Sunday, September yth. Fell in with the north-east trade-winds. 
This morning we caught our first dolphin, which I was very eager 
to see. I was disappointed in the colors of this fish when dying. 
They were certainly very beautiful, but not equal to what had been 
said of them. They are too indistinct. To do the fish justice, there 
is nothing more beautiful than the dolphin when swimming a few 
feet below the surface, on a bright day. It is the most elegantly 
formed, and also the quickest fish, in salt water; and the rays of 
the sun striking upon it, in its rapid and changing motions, reflected 
from the water, make it look like a stray beam from a rainbow. 

This day was spent like all pleasant Sabbaths at sea. The decks 
are washed down, the rigging coiled up, and everything put in 
order; and throughout the day only one watch is kept on deck at 
a time. The men are all dressed in their best white duck trowsers, 
and red or checked shirts, and have nothing to do but to make the 
necessary changes in the sails. They employ themselves in reading, 
talking, smoking, and mending their clothes. If the weather is 
pleasant, they bring their work and their books upon deck, and sit 
down upon the forecastle and windlass. This is the only day on 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 23 

which these privileges are allowed them. When Monday comes, 
they put on their tarry trowsers again, and prepare for six days of 
labor. 

To enhance the value of the Sabbath to the crew, they are allowed 
on that day a pudding, or, as it is called, a "duff." This is nothing 
more than flour boiled with water, and eaten with molasses. It is very 
heavy, dark, and clammy, yet it is looked upon as a luxury, and 
really forms an agreeable variety with salt beef and pork. Many 
a rascally captain has made friends of his crew by allowing them 
duff twice a week on the passage home. 

On board some vessels this is made a day of instruction and o£ 
rehgious exercises; but we had a crew of swearers, from the captain 
to the smallest boy; and a day of rest and of something like quiet, 
social enjoyment, was all that we could expect. 

We continued running large before the north-east trade winds 
for several days, until Monday — 

September 22d, when, upon coming on deck at seven bells in the 
morning, we found the other watch aloft, throwing water upon 
the sails; and looking astern, we saw a small clipper-built brig with 
a black hull heading directly after us. We went to work immedi- 
ately, and put all the canvas upon the brig which we could get 
upon her, rigging out oars for studding-sail yards; and continued 
wetting down the sails by buckets of water whipped up to the 
mast-head, until about nine o'clock, when there came on a drizzling 
rain. The vessel continued in pursuit, changing her course as we 
changed ours to keep before the wind. The captain, who watched 
her with his glass, said that she was armed, and full of men, and 
showed no colors. We continued running dead before the wind, 
knowing that we sailed better so, and that clippers are fastest on the 
wind. We had also another advantage. The wind was light, and 
we spread more canvas than she did, having royals and sky-sails 
fore and aft, and ten studding-sails; while she, being an herma- 
phrodite brig, had only a gaff top-sail, aft. Early in the morning 
she was overhauling us a little, but after the rain came on and the 
wind grew lighter, we began to leave her astern. All hands remained 
on deck throughout the day, and we got our arms in order; but 
we were too few to have done anything wdth her, if she had proved 



24 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

to be what we feared. Fortunately there was no moon, and the 
night which followed was exceedingly dark, so that by putting out 
all the lights on board and altering our course four points, we hoped 
to get out of her reach. We had no light in the binnacle, but steered 
by the stars, and kept perfect silence through the night. At day- 
break there was no sign of anything in the horizon, and we kept 
the vessel off to her course. 

Wednesday, October ist. Crossed the equator in long. 24° 24' W. 
I now, for the first time, felt at liberty, according to the old usage, 
to call myself a son of Neptune, and was very glad to be able to 
claim the title without the disagreeable initiation which so many 
have to go through. After once crossing the line you can never be 
subjected to the process, but are considered as a son of Neptune, with 
full powers to play tricks upon others. This ancient custom is now 
seldom allowed, unless there are passengers on board, in which 
case there is always a good deal of sport. 

It had been obvious to all hands for some time that the second 

mate, whose name was F , was an idle, careless fellow, and not 

much of a sailor, and that the captain was exceedingly dissatisfied 
with him. The power of the captain in these cases was well known, 

and we all anticipated a difficulty. F (called Mr. by virtue of 

his office) was but half a sailor, having always been short voyages 
and remained at home a long time between them. His father was 
a man of some property, and intended to have given his son a liberal 
education; but he, being idle and worthless, was sent off to sea, and 
succeeded no better there; for, unlike many scamps, he had none of 
the qualities of a sailor — he was "not of the stuff that they make 
sailors of." He was one of that class of officers who are disliked by 
their captain and despised by the crew. He used to hold long yarns 
with the crew, and talk about the captain, and play with the boys, 
and relax discipline in every way. This kind of conduct always 
makes the captain suspicious, and is never pleasant, in the end, to 
the men; they preferring to have an officer active, vigilant, and 
distant as may be, with kindness. Among other bad practices, he 
frequently slept on his watch, and having been discovered asleep 
by the captain, he was told that he would be turned off duty if he 
did it again. To prevent it in every way possible, the hen-coops 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 25 

were ordered to be knocked up, for the captain never sat down on 
deck himself, and never permitted an officer to do so. 

The second night after crossing the equator, we had the watch 
from eight till twelve, and it was "my helm" for the last two hours. 
There had been light squalls through the night, and the captain 
told Mr. F , who commanded our watch, to keep a bright look- 
out. Soon after I came to the helm, I found that he was quite drowsy, 
and at last he stretched himself on the companion and went fast 
asleep. Soon afterwards, the captain came very quietly on deck, and 
stood by me for some time looking at the compass. The officer at 
length became aware of the captain's presence, but pretending not 
to know it, began humming and whistling to himself, to show 
that he was not asleep, and went forward, without looking behind 
him, and ordered the main royal to be loosed. On turning round 
to come aft, he pretended surprise at seeing the master on deck. 
This would not do. The captain was too "wide awake" for him, 
and beginning upon him at once, gave him a grand blow-up, in 
true nautical style — "You're a lazy, good-for-nothing rascal; you're 
neither man, boy, soger, nor sailor! you're no more than a thing 
aboard a vessel! you don't earn your salt; you're worse than a 
Mahon soger!" and other still more choice extracts from the sailor's 
vocabulary. After the poor fellow had taken this harangue, he was 
sent into his stateroom, and the captain stood the rest of the watch 
himself. 

At seven bells in the morning, all hands were called aft and told 

that F was no longer an officer on board, and that we might 

choose one of our own number for second mate. It is usual for the 
captain to make this offer, and it is very good policy, for the crew 
think themselves the choosers and are flattered by it, but have to 
obey, nevertheless. Our crew, as is usual, refused to take the re- 
sponsibility of choosing a man of whom we would never be able 
to complain, and left it to the captain. He picked out an active and 
intelligent young sailor, born near the Kennebec, who had been 
several Canton voyages, and proclaimed him in the following 
manner: "I choose Jim Hall — he's your second mate. All you've 
got to do is to obey him as you would me; and remember that he 
is Mr. Hall." F went forward into the forecasde as a common 



26 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

sailor, and lost the handle to his name, while young foremast Jim 
became Mr. Hall, and took up his quarters in the land of knives and 
forks and tea-cups. 

Sunday, October ^th. It was our morning watch; when, soon 
after the day began to break, a man on the forecastle called out, 
"Land ho!" I had never heard the cry before, and did not know 
what it meant, (and few would suspect what the words were, when 
hearing the strange sound for the first time,) but I soon found, by 
the direction of all eyes, that there was land stretching along on our 
weather beam. We immediately took in studding-sails and hauled 
our wind, running in for the land. This was done to determine our 
longitude; for by the captain's chronometer we were in 25° W., 
but by his observations we were much farther, and he had been for 
some time in doubt whether it was his chronometer or his sextant 
which was out of order. This land-fall settled the matter, and the 
former instrument was condemned, and, becoming still worse, was 
never afterwards used. 

As we ran in towards the coast, we found that we were directly 
off the port of Pernambuco, and could see with the telescope the 
roofs of the houses, and one large church, and the town of Olinda. 
We ran along by the mouth of the harbor, and saw a full-rigged 
brig going in. At two, P. M., we again kept off before the wind, 
leaving the land on our quarter, and at sun-down, it was out of 
sight. It was here that I first saw one of those singular things called 
catamarans. They are composed of logs lashed together upon the 
water; have one large sail, are quite fast, and, strange as it may 
seem, are trusted as good sea boats. We saw several, with from one 
to three men in each, boldly putting out to sea, after it had become 
almost dark. The Indians go out in them after fish, and as the 
weather is regular in certain seasons, they have no fear. After 
taking a new departure from Olinda, we kept off on our way to 
Cape Horn. 

We met with nothing remarkable until we were in the latitude 
of the river La Plata. Here there are violent gales from the south- 
west, called Pamperos, which are very destructive to the shipping in 
the river, and are felt for many leagues at sea. They are usually pre- 
ceded by lightning. The captain told the mates to keep a bright look- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST T.'J 

out, and i£ they saw lightning at the south-west, to take in sail at 
once. We got the first touch of one during my watch on deck. I was 
walking in the lee gangway, and thought that I saw lightning on 
the lee bow. I told the second mate, who came over and looked out 
for some time. It was very black in the south-west, and in about 
ten minutes we saw a distinct flash. The wind, which had been 
south-east, had now left us, and it was dead calm. We sprang aloft 
immediately and furled the royals and top-gallant- sails, and took in 
the flying jib, hauled up the mainsail and trysail, squared the after 
yards, and awaited the attack. A huge mist capped with black clouds 
came driving towards us, extending over that quarter of the horizon, 
and covering the stars, which shone brightly in the other part of the 
heavens. It came upon us at once with a blast, and a shower of 
hail and rain, which almost took our breath from us. The hardiest 
was obliged to turn his back. We let the halyards run, and for- 
tunately were not taken aback. The little vessel "paid off" from the 
wind, and ran for some time directly before it, tearing through the 
water with everything flying. Having called all hands, we close- 
reefed the topsails and trysail, furled the courses and jib, set the 
fore-topmast staysail, and brought her up nearly to her course, with 
the weather braces hauled in a Uttle, to ease her. 

This was the first blow, that I had seen, which could really be 
called a gale. We had reefed our topsails in the Gulf Stream, and 
I thought it something serious, but an older sailor would have 
thought nothing of it. As I had now become used to the vessel and 
to my duty, I was of some service on a yard, and could knot my 
reef-point as well as anybody. I obeyed the order to lay' aloft with 
the rest, and found the reefing a very exciting scene; for one watch 
reefed the fore-topsail, and the other the main, and every one did 
his utmost to get his topsail hoisted first. We had a great advantage 
over the larboard watch, because the chief mate never goes aloft, 
while our new second mate used to jump into the rigging as soon 
as we began to haul out the reef-tackle, and have the weather earing 

* This word "lay," which is in such general use on board ship, being used in giving 
orders instead of "go;" as, "Lay forward!" "Lay aft!" "Lay aloft!" etc., I do not 
understand to be the neuter verb lie, mispronounced, but to be the active verb lay, 
with the objective case understood; as, "Lay yourselves forwardl" "Lay yourselves 
aft I" etc. 



28 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

passed before there was a man upon the yard. In this way we were 
almost always able to raise the cry o£ "Haul out to leeward" before 
them, and having knotted our points, would slide down the shrouds 
and back-stays, and sing out at the topsail halyards to let it be known 
that we were ahead of them. Reefing is the most exciting part of 
a sailor's duty. All hands are engaged upon it, and after the halyards 
are let go, there is no time to be lost — no "sogering," or hanging 
back, then. If one is not quick enough, another runs over him. The 
first on the yard goes to the weather earing, the second to the lee, and 
the next two to the "dog's ears;" while the others lay along into the 
bunt, just giving each other elbow-room. In reefing, the yard-arms 
(the extremes of the yards) are the posts of honor; but in furling, 
the strongest and most experienced stand in the slings, (or, middle 
of the yard,) to make up the bunt. If the second mate is a smart 
fellow, he will never let any one take either of these posts from him ; 
but if he is wanting either in seamanship, strength, or activity, some 
better man will get the bunt and earings from him; which im- 
mediately brings him into disrepute. 

We remained for the rest of the night, and throughout the next 
day, under the same close sail, for it continued to blow very fresh; 
and though we had no more hail, yet there was a soaking rain, and 
it was quite cold and uncomfortable; the more so because we were 
not prepared for cold weather, but had on our thin clothes. We 
were glad to get a watch below, and put on our thick clothing, boots, 
and south-westers. Towards sundown the gale moderated a little 
and it began to clear off in the south-west. We shook our reefs out, 
one by one, and before midnight had top-gallant sails upon her. 

We had now made up out minds for Cape Horn and cold weather, 
and entered upon every necessary preparation. 

Tuesday, Nov. ^th. At day-break saw land upon our larboard 
quarter. There were two islands, of different size but of the same 
shape; rather high, beginning low at the water's edge, and running 
with a curved ascent to the middle. They were so far off as to be 
of a deep blue color, and in a few hours we sanl{^ them in the north- 
east. These were the Falkland Islands. We had run between them 
and the main land of Patagonia. At sunset the second mate, who 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 29 

was at the mast-head, said that he saw land on the starboard bow. 
This must have been the island o£ Staten Land; and we were now 
in the region of Cape Horn, with a fine breeze from the northward, 
top-mast and top-galtant studding-sails set, and every prospect of a 
speedy and pleasant passage round. 



CHAPTER V 
Cape Horn — A Visit 

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 5TH.— The weather was fine during 
the previous night, and we had a clear view of the Magellan 
Clouds, and of the Southern Cross. The Magellan Clouds 
consist of three small nebulae in the southern part of the heavens, — 
two bright, like the milky-way, and one dark. These are first seen, 
just above the horizon, soon after crossing the southern tropic. 
When off Cape Horn, they are nearly over head. The cross is com- 
posed of four stars in that form, and is said to be the brightest 
constellation in the heavens. 

During the first part of this day (Wednesday) the wind was light, 
but after noon it came on fresh, and we furled the royals. We still 
kept the studding-sails out, and the captain said he should go round 
with them, if he could. Just before eight o'clock (then about sun- 
down, in that latitude) the cry of "All hands ahoy!" was sounded 
down the fore scuttle and the after hatchway, and hurrying upon 
deck, we found a large black cloud rolling on toward us from the 
south-west, and blackening the whole heavens. "Here comes Cape 
Horn!" said the chief mate; and we had hardly time to haul down 
and clew up, before it was upon us. In a few moments, a heavier 
sea was raised than I had ever seen before, and as it was direcdy 
ahead, the little brig, which was no better than a bathing machine, 
plunged into it, and all the forward part of her was under water; 
the sea pouring in through the bow-ports and hawse-hole and over 
the knightheads, threatening to wash everything overboard. In 
the lee scuppers it was up to a man's waist. We sprang aloft and 
double reefed the topsails, and furled all the other sails, and made 
all snug. But this would not do; the brig was laboring and straining 
against the head sea, and the gale was growing worse and worse. 
At the same time sleet and hail were driving with all fury against 
us. We clewed down, and hauled out the reef-tackles again, and 

30 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 3 1 

close-reefed the fore-topsail, and furled the main, and hove her to 
on the starboard tack. Here was an end to our fine prospects. We 
made up our minds to head winds and cold weather; sent down the 
royal yards, and unrove the gear; but all the rest of the top hamper 
remained aloft, even to the sky-sail masts and studding-sail booms. 

Throughout the night it stormed violently — rain, hail, snow, and 
sleet beating upon the vessel — the wind continuing ahead, and the 
sea running high. At day-break (about three, A.M.) the deck was 
covered with snow. The captain sent up the steward with a glass 
of grog to each of the watch; and all the time that we were off the 
Cape, grog was given to the morning watch, and to all hands when- 
ever we reefed topsails. The clouds cleared away at sunrise, and 
the wind becoming more fair, we again made sail and stood nearly 
up to our course. 

Thursday, Nov. 6th. It continued more pleasant through the first 
part of the day, but at night we had the same scene over again. This 
time, we did not heave to, as on the night before, but endeavored to 
beat to windward under close-reefed topsails, balance-reefed trysail, 
and fore-topmast staysail. This night it was my turn to steer, or, as 
the sailors say, my tric\ at the helm, for two hours. Inexperienced 
as I was, I made out to steer to the satisfaction of the officer, and 

neither S nor myself gave up our tricks, all the time that we were 

off the Cape. This was something to boast of, for it requires a good 
deal of skill and watchfulness to steer a vessel close hauled, in a 
gale of wind, against a heavy head sea. "Ease her when she pitches," 
is the word; and a little carelessness in letting her ship a heavy sea, 
might sweep the decks, or knock the masts out of her. 

Friday, Nov. yth. Towards morning the wind went down, and 
during the whole forenoon we lay tossing about in a dead calm, 
and in the midst of a thick fog. The calms here are unlike those in 
most parts of the world, for there is always a high sea running, and 
the periods of calm are so short, that it has no time to go down; 
and vessels, being under no command of sails or rudder, lie like 
logs upon the water. We were obliged to steady the booms and 
yards by guys and braces, and to lash everything well below. We 
now found our top hamper of some use, for though it is liable to be 
carried away or sprung by the sudden "bringing up" of a vessel when 



32 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

pitching in a chopping sea, yet it is a great help in steadying a 
vessel when rolling in a long swell; giving more slowness, ease, 
and regularity to the motion. 

The calm of the morning reminds me of a scene which I forgot 
to describe at the time of its occurrence, but which I remember from 
its being the first time that I had heard the near breathing of whales. 
It was on the night that we passed between the Falkland Islands 
and Staten Land. We had the watch from twelve to four, and com- 
ing upon deck, found the little brig lying perfectly still, surrounded 
by a thick fog, and the sea as smooth as though oil had been poured 
upon it; yet now and then a long, low swell rolling under its sur- 
face, slightly lifting the vessel, but without breaking the glassy 
smoothness of the water. We were surrounded far and near by 
shoals of sluggish whales and grampuses, which the fog prevented 
our seeing, rising slowly to the surface, or perhaps lying out at 
length, heaving out those peculiar lazy, deep, and long-drawn 
breathings which give such an impression of supineness and strength. 
Some of the watch were asleep, and the others were perfectly still, 
so that there was nothing to break the illusion, and I stood leaning 
over the bulwarks, listening to the slow breathings of the mighty 
creatures — now one breaking the water just alongside, whose black 
body I almost fancied that I could see through the fog; and again 
another, which I could just hear in the distance — until the low and 
regular swell seemed like the heaving of the ocean's mighty bosom 
to the sound of its heavy and long-drawn respirations. 

Towards the evening of this day, {Friday, Jth,) the fog cleared 
off, and we had every appearance of a cold blow; and soon after 
sundown it came on. Again it was a clew up and haul down, reef 
and furl, until we had got her down to close-reefed topsails, double- 
reefed trysail, and reefed forespenser. Snow, hail, and sleet were 
driving upon us most of the night, and the sea breaking over the 
bows and covering the forward part of the little vessel; but as she 
would lay her course the captain refused to heave her to. 

Saturday, Nov. 8th. This day commenced with calm and thick 
fog, and ended with hail, snow, a violent wind, and close-reefed 
topsails. 
Sunday, Nov. gth. To-day the sun rose clear, and continued so 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 33 

until twelve o'clock, when the captain got an observation. This was 
very well for Cape Horn, and we thought it a little remarkable that, 
as we had not had one unpleasant Sunday during the whole voyage, 
the only tolerable day here should be a Sunday. We got time to 
clear up the steerage and forecastle, and set things to rights, and to 
overhaul our wet clothes a little. But this did not last very long. 
Between five and six — the sun was then nearly three hours high — 
the cry of "All starbowlines ahoy!" summoned our watch on deck; 
and immediately all hands were called. A true specimen of Cape 
Horn was coming upon us. A great cloud of a dark slate color was 
driving on us from the south-west; and we did our best to take in 
sail (for the light sails had been set during the first part of the day) 
before we were in the midst of it. We had got the light sails furled, 
the courses hauled up, and the topsail reef-tackles hauled out, and 
were just mounting the fore-rigging, when the storm struck us. In 
an instant the sea, which had been comparatively quiet, was running 
higher and higher; and it became almost as dark as night. The 
hail and sleet were harder than I had yet felt them; seeming almost 
to pin us down to the rigging. We were longer taking in sail than 
ever before; for the sails were stiff and wet, the ropes and rigging 
covered with snow and sleet, and we ourselves cold and nearly 
blinded with the violence of the storm. By the time we had got 
down upon deck again, the little brig was plunging madly into a 
tremendous head sea, which at every drive rushed in through the 
bow-ports and over the bows, and buried all the forward part of 
the vessel. At this instant the chief mate, who was standing on the 
top of the windlass, at the foot of the spenser mast, called out, "Lay 
out there and furl the jib!" This was no agreeable or safe duty, yet 
it must be done. An old Swede, (the best sailor on board,) who be- 
longed on the forecastle, sprang out upon the bowsprit. Another 
one must go: I was near the mate, and sprang forward, threw the 
downhaul over the windlass, and jumped between the knight-heads 
out upon the bowsprit. The crew stood abaft the windlass and 
hauled the jib down while we got out upon the weather side of the 
jib-boom, our feet on the foot-ropes, holding on by the spar, the 
great jib flying off to leeward and slatting so as almost to throw us 
off of the boom. For some time we could do nothing but hold on, 



34 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

and the vessel diving into two huge seas, one after the other, plunged 
us twice into the water up to our chins. We hardly knew whether 
we were on or off; when coming up, dripping from the water, we 
were raised high into the air. John (that was the sailor's name) 
thought the boom would go, every moment, and called out to the 
mate to keep the vessel off, and haul down the stay-sail; but the fury 
of the wind and the breaking of the seas against the bows defied 
every attempt to make ourselves heard, and we were obliged to do 
the best we could in our situation. Fortunately, no other seas so 
heavy struck her, and we succeeded in furling the jib "after a 
fashion;" and, coming in over the staysail nettings, were not a little 
pleased to find that all was snug, and the watch gone below; for we 
were soaked through, and it was very cold. The weather continued 
nearly the same through the night. 

Monday, Nov. loth. During a part of this day we were hove to, 
but the rest of the time were driving on, under close-reefed sails, 
with a heavy sea, a strong gale, and frequent squalls of hail and 
snow. 

Tuesday, Nov. nth. The same. 

Wednesday. The same. 

Thursday. The same. 

We had now got hardened to Cape weather, the vessel was under 
reduced sail, and everything secured on deck and below, so that we 
had little to do but to steer and to stand our watch. Our clothes 
were all wet through, and the only change was from wet to more 
wet. It was in vain to think of reading or working below, for we 
were too tired, the hatchways were closed down, and everything 
was wet and uncomfortable, black and dirty, heaving and pitching. 
We had only to come below when the watch was out, wring out our 
wet clothes, hang them up, and turn in and sleep as soundly as we 
could, until the watch was called again. A sailor can sleep anywhere 
— no sound of wind, water, wood or iron can keep him awake — 
and we were always fast asleep when three blows on the hatchway, 
and the unwelcome cry of "All starbowlines ahoy! Eight bells there 
below! do you hear the news?" (the usual formula of calling the 
watch,) roused us up from our berths upon the cold, wet decks. 
The only time when we could be said to take any pleasure was at 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 35 

night and morning, when we were allowed a tin pot full of hot tea, 
(or, as the sailors significantly call it "water bewitched,") sweetened 
with molasses. This, bad as it was, was still warm and comforting, 
and, together with our sea biscuit and cold salt beef, made quite a 
meal. Yet even this meal was attended with some uncertainty. We 
had to go ourselves to the galley and take our kid of beef and tin 
pots of tea, and run the risk of losing them before we could get 
below. Many a kid of beef have I seen rolhng in the scuppers, and 
the bearer lying at his length on the decks. I remember an English 
lad who was always the life of the crew, but whom we afterwards 
lost overboard, standing for nearly ten minutes at the galley, with 
his pot of tea in his hand, waiting for a chance to get down into 
the forecastle; and seeing what he thought was a "smooth spell," 
started to go forward. He had just got to the end of the windlass, 
when a great sea broke over the bows, and for a moment I saw 
nothing of him but his head and shoulders; and at the next instant, 
being taken off his legs, he was carried aft with the sea, until her 
stern lifting up and sending the water forward, he was left high 
and dry at the side of the long-boat, still holding on to his tin pot, 
which had now nothing in it but salt water. But nothing could ever 
daunt him, or overcome, for a moment, his habitual good humor. 
Regaining his legs, and shaking his fist at the man at the wheel, 
he rolled below, saying, as he passed, "A man's no sailor, if he can't 
take a joke." The ducking was not the worst of such an affair, for, 
as there was an allowance of tea, you could get no more from the 
galley; and though the sailors would never suffer a man to go 
without, but would always turn in a little from their own pots to 
fill up his, yet this was at best but dividing the loss among all hands. 
Something of the same kind befell me a few days after. The cook 
had just made for us a mess of hot "scouse" — that is, biscuit 
pounded fine, salt beef cut into small pieces, and a few potatoes, 
boiled up together and seasoned with pepper. This was a rare treat, 
and I, being the last at the galley, had it put in my charge to carry 
down for the mess. I got along very well as far as the hatchway, 
and was just getting down the steps, when a heavy sea, lifting the 
stern out of water, and passing forward, dropping it down again, 
threw the steps from their place, and I came down into the steerage 



36 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

a little faster than I meant to, with the kid on top of me, and the 
whole precious mess scattered over the floor. Whatever your feelings 
may be, you must make a joke of everything at sea; and if you 
were to fall from aloft and be caught in the belly of a sail, and thus 
saved from instant death, it would not do to look at all disturbed, or 
to make a serious matter of it. 

Friday, Nov. 14th. We were now well to the westward of the 
Cape, and were changing our course to the northward as much as we 
dared, since the strong south-west winds, which prevailed then, car- 
ried us in towards Patagonia. At two, P. M., we saw a sail on our 
larboard beam, and at four we made it out to be a large ship steering 
our course, under single-reefed topsails. We at that time had shaken 
the reefs out of our topsails, as the wind was lighter, and set the 
main top-gallant sail. As soon as our captain saw what sail she was 
under, he set the fore top-gallant sail and flying jib; and the old 
whaler — for such, his boats and short sail showed him to be — felt a 
little ashamed, and shook the reefs out of his topsails, but could do 
no more, for he had sent down his top-gallant masts off the Cape. 
He ran down for us, and answered our hail as the whale-ship, New 
England, of Poughkeepsie, one hundred and twenty days from New 
York. Our captain gave our name, and added ninety-two days from 
Boston. They then had a little conversation about longitude, in 
which they found that they could not agree. The ship fell astern, 
and continued in sight during the night. Toward morning, the wind 
having become light, we crossed our royal and skysail yards, and at 
daylight, we were seen under a cloud of sail, having royals and sky- 
sails fore and aft. The "spouter," as the sailors call a whaleman, had 
sent out his main top-gallant mast and set the sail, and made 
signal for us to heave to. About half-past seven their whale-boat 
came alongside, and Captain Job Terry sprang on board, a man 
known in every port and by every vessel in the Pacific ocean. "Don't 
you know Job Terry? I thought everybody knew Job Terry," said a 
green-hand, who came in the boat, to me, when I asked him about 
his captain. He was indeed a singular man. He was six feet high, 
wore thick cowhide boots, and brown coat and trowsers, and, except 
a sun-burnt complexion, had not the slightest appearance of a sailor; 
yet he had been forty years in the whale trade, and, as he said him- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 37 

self, had owned ships, built ships, and sailed ships. His boat's crew 
were a pretty raw set, just set out of the bush, and, as the sailor's 
phrase is, "hadn't got the hayseed out of their hair." Captain Terry 
convinced our captain that our reckoning was a little out, and, hav- 
ing spent the day on board, put off in his boat at sunset for his ship, 
which was now six or eight miles astern. He began a "yarn" when 
he came aboard, which lasted, with but little intermission, for four 
hours. It was all about himself, and the Peruvian government, and 
the Dublin frigate, and Lord James Townshend, and President 
Jackson, and the ship Ann M'Kim of Baltimore. It would probably 
never have come to an end, had not a good breeze sprung up, which 
sent him off to his own vessel. One of the lads who came in his 
boat, a thoroughly countrified-looking fellow, seemed to care very 
little about the vessel, rigging, or anything else, but went round 
looking at the live stock, and leaned over the pig-sty, and said he 
wished he was back again tending his father's pigs. 

At eight o'clock we altered our course to the northward, bound 
for Juan Fernandez. 

This day we saw the last of the albatrosses, which had been our 
companions a great part of the time off the Cape. I had been inter- 
ested in the bird from descriptions which I had read of it, and 
was not at all disappointed. We caught one or two with a baited 
hook which we floated astern upon a shingle. Their long, flapping 
wings, long legs, and large staring eyes, give them a very peculiar ap- 
pearance. They look well on the wing; but one of the finest sights 
that I have ever seen, was an albatross asleep upon the water, during 
a calm, off Cape Horn, when a heavy sea was running. There being 
no breeze, the surface of the water was unbroken, but a long, heavy 
swell was rolling, and we saw the fellow, all white, directly ahead of 
us, asleep upon the waves, with his head under his wing; now rising 
on the top of a huge billow, and then falling slowly until he was 
lost in the hollow between. He was undisturbed for some time, until 
the noise of our bows, gradually approaching, roused him, when, 
lifting his head, he stared upon us for a moment, and then spread 
his wide wings and took his flight. 



CHAPTER VI 
Loss OF A Man — Superstition 

MONDAY, Nov. 19TH. This was a black day in our calendar. 
At seven o'clock in the morning, it being our watch below, 
we were aroused from a sound sleep by the cry of "All 
hands ahoy! a man overboard!" This unwonted cry sent a thrill 
through the heart of every one, and hurrying on deck, we found the 
vessel hove flat aback, with all her studding-sails set; for the boy 
who was at the helm left it to throw something overboard, and the 
carpenter, who was an old sailor, knowing that the wind was light, 
put the helm down and hove her aback. The watch on deck were 
lowering away the quarter-boat, and I got on deck just in time to 
heave myself into her as she was leaving the side; but it was not 
until out upon the wide Pacific, in our little boat, that I knew whom 
we had lost. It was George Ballmer, a young English sailor, who 
was prized by the officers as an active and willing seaman, and by 
the crew as a lively, hearty fellow, and a good shipmate. He was 
going aloft to fit a strap round the main top-masthead, for ringtail 
halyards, and had the strap and block, a coil of halyards, and a 
marline-spike about his neck. He fell from the starboard futtock 
shrouds, and not knowing how to swim, and being heavily dressed, 
with all those things round his neck, he probably sank immediately. 
We pulled astern, in the direction in which he fell, and though we 
knew that there was no hope of saving him, yet no one wished to 
speak of returning, and we rowed about for nearly an hour, without 
the hope of doing anything, but unwilling to acknowledge to our- 
selves that we must give him up. At length we turned the boat's 
head and made towards the vessel. 

Death is at all times solemn, but never so much so as at sea. A 
man dies on shore; his body remains with his friends, and "the 
mourners go about the streets;" but when a man falls overboard at 
sea and is lost, there is a suddenness in the event, and a difficulty 

38 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 39 

in realizing it, which give to it an air o£ awful mystery. A man dies 
on shore — you follow his body to the grave, and a stone marks the 
spot. You are often prepared for the event. There is always some- 
thing which helps you to realize it when it happens, and to recall 
it when it has passed. A man is shot down by your side in battle, 
and the mangled body remains an object, and a real evidence; but 
at sea, the man is near you — at your side — you hear his voice, and 
in an instant he is gone, and nothing but a vacancy shows his loss. 
Then, too, at sea — to use a homely but expressive phrase — ^you miss 
a man so much. A dozen men are shut up together in a little bark, 
upon the wide, wide sea, and for months and months see no forms 
and hear no voices but their own and one is taken suddenly from 
among them, and they miss him at every turn. It is like losing a 
limb. There are no new faces or new scenes to fill up the gap. 
There is always an empty berth in the forecastle, and one man 
wanting when the small night watch is mustered. There is one less 
to take the wheel and one less to lay out with you upon the yard. 
You miss his form, and the sound of his voice, for habit had made 
them almost necessary to you, and each of your senses feels the loss. 
All these things make such a death peculiarly solemn, and the 
effect of it remains upon the crew for some time. There is more 
kindness shown by the officers to the crew, and by the crew to one 
another. There is more quietness and seriousness. The oath and 
the loud laugh are gone. The officers are more watchful, and the 
crew go more carefully aloft. The lost man is seldom mentioned, or 
is dismissed with a sailor's rude eulogy — ^"Well, poor George is 
gone! His cruise is up soon! He knew his work, and did his duty, 
and was a good shipmate." Then usually follows some allusion to 
another world, for sailors are almost all believers; but their notions 
and opinions are unfixed and at loose ends. They say, — "God won't 
be hard upon the poor fellow," and seldom get beyond the common 
phrase which seems to imply that their sufferings and hard treat- 
ment here will excuse them hereafter, — "To wor\ hard, live hard, 
die hard, and go to hell after all, would be hard indeed!" Our 
cook, a simple-hearted old African, who had been through a good 
deal in his day, and was rather seriously inclined, always going to 
church twice a day when on shore, and reading his Bible on a Sun- 



40 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

day in the galley, talked to the crew about spending their Sabbaths 
badly, and told them that they might go as suddenly as George 
had, and be as little prepared. 

Yet a sailor's life is at best but a mixture of a little good with 
much evil, and a little pleasure with much pain. The beautiful is 
linked with the revolting, the sublime with the commonplace, and 
the solemn with the ludicrous. 

We had hardly returned on board with our sad report, before an 
auction was held of the poor man's clothes. The captain had first, 
however, called all hands aft and asked them if they were satisfied 
that everything had been done to save the man, and if they thought 
there was any use in remaining there longer. The crew all said 
that it was in vain, for the man did not know how to swim, and 
was very heavily dressed. So we then filed away and kept her off to 
her course. 

The laws regulating navigation make the captain answerable for 
the effects of a sailor who dies during the voyage, and it is either 
a law or a universal custom, established for convenience, that the 
captain should immediately hold an auction of his things, in which 
they are bid ofif by the sailors, and the sums which they give are 
deducted from their wages at the end of the voyage. In this way 
the trouble and risk of keeping his things through the voyage are 
avoided, and the clothes are usually sold for more than they would 
be worth on shore. Accordingly, we had no sooner got the ship 
before the wind, than his chest was brought up upon the forecastle, 
and the sale began. The jackets and trowsers in which we had 
seen him dressed but a few days before, were exposed and bid off 
while the life was hardly out of his body, and his chest was taken 
aft and used as a store-chest, so that there was nothing left which 
could be called his. Sailors have an unwillingness to wear a dead 
man's clothes during the same voyage, and they seldom do so un- 
less they are in absolute want. 

As is usual after a death, many stories were told about George. 
Some had heard him say that he repented never having learned to 
swim, and that he knew that he should meet his death by drown- 
ing. Another said that he never knew any good to come of a voy- 
age made against the will, and the deceased man shipped and spent 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 4I 

his advance, and was afterwards very unwilling to go, but not 
being able to refund, was obliged to sail with us. A boy, too, who 
had become quite attached to him, said that George talked to him 
during most of the watch on the night before about his mother 
and family at home, and this was the first time that he had men- 
tioned the subject during the voyage. 

The night after this event, when I went to the galley to get a 
light, I found the cook inclined to be talkative, so I sat down on 
the spars, and gave him an opportunity to hold a yarn. I was the 
more inclined to do so, as I found that he was full of the supersti- 
tions once more common among seamen, and which the recent 
death had waked up in his mind. He talked about George's having 
spoken of his friends, and said he believed few men died without 
having a warning of it, which he supported by a great many stories 
of dreams, and the unusual behavior of men before death. From 
this he went on to other superstitions, the Flying Dutchman, etc., 
and talked rather mysteriously, having something evidently on his 
mind. At length he put his head out of the galley and looked care- 
fully about to see if any one was within hearing, and being satisfied 
on that point, asked me in a low tone — 

"I say! you know what countryman 'e carpenter be?" 

"Yes," said I, "he's a German." 

"What kind of a German?" said the cook. 

"He belongs to Bremen," said I. 

"Are you sure o' dat?" said he. 

I satisfied him on that point by saying that he could speak no 
language but the German and English. 

"I'm plaguy glad o' dat," said the cook. "I was mighty 'fraid he 
was a Fin. I tell you what, 1 been plaguy civil to that man all the 
voyage." 

I asked him the reason of this, and found that he was fully pos- 
sessed with the notion that Fins are wizards, and especially have 
power over winds and storms. I tried to reason with him about it, 
but he had the best of all arguments, that from experience, at hand, 
and was not to be moved. He had been in a vessel to the Sandwich 
Islands, in which the sail-maker was a Fin, and could do anything 
he was of a mind to. This sail-maker kept a junk bottle in his 



42 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

berth, which was always just half full of rum, though he got drunk 
upon it nearly every day. He had seen him sit for hours together, 
talking to this bottle, which he stood up before him on the table. 
The same man cut his throat in his berth, and everybody said he was 
possessed. 

He had heard of ships, too, beating up the gulf of Finland against 
a head wind and having a ship heave in sight astern, overhaul and 
pass them, with as fair a wind as could blow, and all studding-sails 
out, and find she was from Finland. 

"Oh, no!" said he; "I've seen too much of them men to want to see 
'em 'board a ship. If they can't have their own way, they'll play the 
d 1 with you." 

As I still doubted, he said he would leave it to John, who was 
the oldest seaman aboard, and would know, if anybody did. John, 
to be sure, was the oldest, and at the same time the most ignorant, 
man in the ship; but I consented to have him called. The cook 
stated the matter to him, and John, as I anticipated, sided with the 
cook, and said that he himself had been in a ship where they had 
a head wind for a fortnight, and the captain found out at last that 
one of the men, whom he had had some hard words with a short time 
before, was a Fin, and immediately told him if he didn't stop the 
head wind he would shut him down in the fore peak. The Fin 
would not give in, and the captain shut him down in the fore peak, 
and would not give him anything to eat. The Fin held out for a 
day and a half, when he could not stand it any longer, and did some- 
thing or other which brought the wind round again, and they let 
him up. 

"There," said the cook, "what you think o' dat.?" 

I told him I had no doubt it was true, and that it would have 
been odd if the wind had not changed in fifteen days. Fin or no Fin. 

"Oh," says he, "go 'way! You think, 'cause you been to college, 
you know better than anybody. You know better than them as has 
seen it with their own eyes. You wait till you've been to sea as long 
as I have, and you'll know." 



CHAPTER VII 
Juan Fernandez — The Pacific 

WE CONTINUED sailing along with a fair wind and fine 
weather until 
Tuesday, Nov. 25th, when at daylight we saw the island 
of Juan Fernandez, directly ahead, rising like a deep blue cloud out 
of the sea. We were then probably nearly seventy miles from it ; and 
so high and so blue did it appear, that I mistook it for a cloud, rest- 
ing over the island, and looked for the island under it, until it grad- 
ually turned to a deader and greener color, and I could mark the 
inequaUties upon its surface. At length we could distinguish trees 
and rocks; and by the afternoon, this beautiful island lay fairly 
before us, and we directed our course to the only harbor. Arriving 
at the entrance soon after sun-down, we found a Chilian man-of-war 
brig, the only vessel, coming out. She hailed us, and an officer on 
board, whom we supposed to be an American, advised us to run 
in before night, and said that they were bound to Valparaiso. We 
ran immediately for the anchorage, but, owing to the winds which 
drew about the mountains and came to us in flaws from every point 
of the compass, we did not come to an anchor until nearly midnight. 
We had a boat ahead all the time that we were working in, and 
those aboard were continually bracing the yards about for every 
puff that struck us, until about 12 o'clock, when we came-to in 40 
fathoms water, and our anchor struck bottom for the first time since 
we left Boston — one hundred and three days. We were then divided 
into three watches, and thus stood out the remainder of the night. 

I was called on deck to stand my watch at about three in the morn- 
ing, and I shall never forget the peculiar sensation which I expe- 
rienced on finding myself once more surrounded by land, feeling the 
night breeze coming from off shore, and hearing the frogs and 
crickets. The mountains seemed almost to hang over us, and ap- 
parently from the very heart of them there came out, at regular 

43 



44 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

intervals, a loud echoing sound, which affected me as hardly human. 
We saw no Hghts, and could hardly account for the sound, until the 
mate, who had been there before, told us that it was the "Alerta" 
of the Chilian soldiers, who were stationed over some convicts con- 
fined in caves nearly half way up the mountain. At the expiration 
of my watch I went below, feeling not a little anxious for the day, 
that I might see more nearly, and perhaps tread upon, this romantic, 
I may almost say, classic island. 

When all hands were called it was nearly sunrise, and between 
that time and breakfast, although quite busy on board in getting 
up water-casks, etc., I had a good view of the objects about me. The 
harbor was nearly landlocked, and at the head of it was a landing- 
place, protected by a small breakwater of stones, upon which two 
large boats were hauled up, with a sentry standing over them. Near 
this was a variety of huts or cottages, nearly an hundred in number, 
the best of them built of mud and whitewashed, but the greater 
part only Robinson Crusoe like — of posts and branches of trees. 
The governor's house, as it is called, was the most conspicuous, 
being large, with grated windows, plastered walls, and roof of red 
tiles; yet, like all the rest, only of one story. Near it was a small 
chapel, distinguished by a cross; and a long, low brown-looking 
building, surrounded by something like a palisade, from which an 
old and dingy-looking Chilian flag was flying. This, of course, was 
dignified by the title of Presidio. A sentinel was stationed at the 
chapel, another at the governor's house, and a few soldiers armed 
with bayonets, looking rather ragged, with shoes out at the toes, 
were strolling about among the houses, or waiting at the landing- 
place for our boat to come ashore. 

The mountains were high, but not so overhanging as they ap- 
peared to be by starlight. They seemed to bear off towards the centre 
of the island, and were green and well wooded, with some large, 
and, I am told, exceedingly fertile valleys, with mule-tracks leading 
to different parts of the island. 

I cannot here forget how my friend S and myself got the 

laugh of the crew upon us by our eagerness to get on shore. The 
captain having ordered the quarter-boat to be lowered, we both 
sprang down into the forecastle, filled our jacket pockets with 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 45 

tobacco to barter with the people ashore, and when the officer called 
for "four hands in the boat," n^rly broke our necks in our haste 
to be first over the side, and had the pleasure of pulling ahead of 
the brig with a tow-line for a half an hour, and coming on board 
again to be laughed at by the crew, who had seen our manoeuvre. 

After breakfast the second mate was ordered ashore with five 
hands to fill the water<asks, and to my joy I was among the num- 
ber. We pulled ashore with the empty casks; and here again fortune 
favored me, for the water was too thick and muddy to be put into 
the casks, and the governor had sent men up to the head of the 
stream to clear it out for us, which gave us nearly two hours of 
leisure. This leisure we employed in wandering about among the 
houses, and eating a little fruit which was offered to us. Ground 
apples, melons, grapes, strawberries of an enormous size, and cher- 
ries, abound here. The latter are said to have been planted by Lord 
Anson. The soldiers were miserably clad, and asked with some 
interest whether we had shoes to sell on board. I doubt very much 
if they had the means of buying them. They were very eager to 
get tobacco, for which they gave shells, fruit, etc. Knives also were 
in demand, but we were forbidden by the governor to let any one 
have them, as he told us that all the people there, except the soldiers 
and a few officers, were convicts sent from Valparaiso, and that it 
was necessary to keep all weapons from their hands. The island, 
it seems, belongs to Chili, and had been used by the government as 
a sort of Botany Bay for nearly two years; and the governor — an 
Englishman who had entered the Chilian navy — with a priest, half 
a dozen task-masters, and a body of soldiers, were stationed there to 
keep them in order. This was no easy task; and only a few months 
before our arrival, a few of them had stolen a boat at night, boarded 
a brig lying in the harbor, sent the captain and crew ashore in their 
boat, and gone off to sea. We were informed of this, and loaded our 
arms and kept strict watch on board through the night, and were 
careful not to let the convicts get our knives from us when on shore. 
The worst part of the convicts, I found, were locked up under sentry 
in caves dug into the side of the mountain, nearly half way up, with 
mule-tracks leading to them, whence they were taken by day and 
set to work under task-masters upon building an aqueduct, a wharf, 



46 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

and other public works; while the rest lived in the houses which 
they put up for themselves, had their families with them, and seemed 
to me to be the laziest people on the face of the earth. They did 
nothing but take a paseo into the woods, a paseo among the houses, 
a paseo at the landing-place, looking at us and our vessel, and too 
lazy to speak fast; while the others were driving — or rather, driven — 
about, at a rapid trot, in single file, with burdens on their shoulders, 
and followed up by their task-masters, with long rods in their hands, 
and broad-brimmed straw hats upon their heads. Upon what precise 
grounds this great distinction was made, I do not know, and I 
could not very well know, for the governor was the only man who 
spoke English upon the island, and he was out of my walk. 

Having filled our casks, we returned on board, and soon after, 
the governor, dressed in a uniform like that of an American milida 
officer, the Padre, in the dress of the grey friars, with hood and all 
complete, and the Capitan, with big whiskers and dirty regimentals, 
came on board to dine. While at dinner, a large ship appeared in 
the offing, and soon afterwards we saw a light whale-boat pulling 
into the harbor. The ship lay off and on, and a boat came alongside 
of us, and put on board the captain, a plain young Quaker, dressed 
all in brown. The ship was the Cortes, whaleman, of New Bedford, 
and had put in to see if there were any vessels from round the Horn, 
and to hear the latest news from America. They remained aboard a 
short time and had a little talk with the crew, when they left us and 
pulled off to their ship, which, having filled away, was soon out of 
sight. 

A small boat which came from the shore to take away the gov- 
ernor and suite — ^as they styled themselves — ^brought, as a present 
to the crew, a large pail of milk, a few shells, and a block of sandal 
wood. The milk, which was the first we had tasted since leaving 
Boston, we soon despatched; a piece of the sandal wood I obtained, 
and learned that it grew on the hills in the centre of the island. I 
have always regretted that I did not bring away other specimens 
of the products of the island, having afterwards lost all that I had 
with me — the piece of sandal wood, and a small flower which I 
plucked and brought on board in the crown of my tarpaulin, and 
carefully pressed between the leaves of a book. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 47 

About an hour before sun-down, having stowed our water-casks, 
we commenced getting under weigh, and were not a Httle while 
about it; for we were in thirty fathoms water, and in one of the gusts 
which came from off shore had let go our other bow anchor; and as 
the southerly wind draws round the mountains and comes off in 
uncertain flaws, we were continually swinging round, and had thus 
got a very foul hawse. We hove in upon our chain, and after stop- 
pering and unshackling it again and again, and hoisting and hauling 
down sail, we at length tipped our anchor and stood out to sea. It 
was bright starlight when we were clear of the bay, and the lofty 
island lay behind us, in its still beauty, and I gave a parting look, 
and bid farewell, to the most romantic spot of earth that my eyes 
had ever seen. I did then, and have ever since, felt an attachment 
for that island, altogether peculiar. It was partly, no doubt, from 
its having been the first land that I had seen since leaving home, 
and still more from the associations which every one has connected 
with it in their childhood from reading Robinson Crusoe. To 
this I may add the height and romantic outlines of its mountains, 
the beauty and freshness of its verdure, and the extreme fertility 
of its soil, and its solitary position in the midst of the wide expanse 
of the South Pacific, as all concurring to give it its peculiar charm. 

When thoughts of this place have occurred to me at different 
times, I have endeavored to recall more particulars with regard to 
it. It is situated in about 33"^ 30' S., and is distant a little more 
than three hundred miles from Valparaiso, on the coast of Chili, 
which is in the same latitude. It is about fifteen miles in length and 
five in breadth. The harbor in which we anchored (called by Lord 
Anson, Cumberland bay) is the only one in the island; two small 
bights of land on each side of the main bay (sometimes dignified 
by the name of bays) being little more than landing-places for 
boats. The best anchorage is at the western side of the bay, where 
we lay at about three cables' lengths from ^he shore, in a little more 
than thirty fathoms water. This harbor is open to the N. N. E., 
and in fact nearly from N. to E., but the only dangerous winds 
being the south-west, on which side are the highest mountains, it 
is considered very safe. The most remarkable thing perhaps about 
it is the fish with which it abounds. Two of our crew, who remained 



48 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

on board, caught in a few minutes enough to last us for several days, 
and one of the men, who was a Marblehead man, said that he never 
saw or heard of such an abundance. There were cod, breams, silver- 
fish, and other kinds whose names they did not know, or which I 
have forgotten. 

There is an abundance of the best of water upon the island, small 
streams running through every valley, and leaping down from the 
sides of the hills. One stream of considerable size flows through 
the centre of the lawn upon which the houses are built, and furnishes 
an easy and abundant supply to the inhabitants. This, by means of 
a short wooden aqueduct, was brought quite down to our boats. 
The convicts had also built something in the way of a breakwater, 
and were to build a landing-place for boats and goods, after which 
the Chilian government intended to lay port charges. 

Of the wood I can only say, that it appeared to be abundant; the 
island in the month of November, when we were there, being in all 
the freshness and beauty of spring, appeared covered with trees. 
These were chiefly aromatic, and the largest was the myrtle. The 
soil is very loose and rich, and wherever it is broken up, there spring 
up presently radishes, turnips, ground apples, and other garden 
fruits. Goats, we were told, were not abundant, and we saw none, 
though it was said we might if we had gone into the interior. We 
saw a few bullocks winding about in the narrow tracks upon the 
sides of the mountains, and the settlement was completely overrun 
with dogs of every nation, kindred, and degree. Hens and chickens 
were also abundant, and seemed to be taken good care of by the 
women. The men appeared to be the laziest people upon the face 
of the earth; and indeed, as far as my observation goes, there are 
no people to whom the newly invented Yankee word of "loafer" 
is more applicable than to the Spanish Americans. These men stood 
about doing nothing, with their cloaks, little better in texture than 
an Indian's blanket, but of rich colors, thrown over their shoulders 
with an air which it is said that a Spanish beggar can always give to 
his rags; and with great politeness and courtesy in their address, 
though with holes in their shoes and without a sou in their pockets. 
The only interruption to the monotony of their day seemed to be 
when a gust of wind drew round between the mountains and blew 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 49 

off the boughs which they had placed for roofs to their houses, and 
gave them a few minutes' occupation in running about after them. 
One of these gusts occurred while we were ashore, and afforded us 
no little amusement at seeing the men look round, and if they found 
that their roofs had stood, conclude that they might stand too, while 
those who saw theirs blown off, after uttering a few Spanish oaths, 
gathered their cloaks over their shoulders, and started off after them. 
However, they were not gone long, but soon returned to their habit- 
ual occupation of doing nothing. 

It is perhaps needless to say that we saw nothing of the interior; 
but all who have seen it, give very glowing accounts of it. Our cap- 
tain went with the governor and a few servants upon mules over 
the mountains, and upon their return, I heard the governor request 
him to stop at the island on his passage home, and offer him a hand- 
some sum to bring a few deer with him from California, for he said 
that there were none upon the island, and he was very desirous of 
having it stocked. 

A steady, though light south-westerly wind carried us well off 
from the island, and when I came on deck for the middle watch I 
could just distinguish it from its hiding a few low stars in the 
southern horizon, though my unpractised eye would hardly have 
known it for land. At the close of the watch a few trade-wind clouds 
which had arisen, though we were hardly yet in their latitude, shut 
it out from our view, and the next day, 

Thursday, Nov. 2'jth, upon coming on deck in the morning, we 
were again upon the wide Pacific, and saw no more land until we 
arrived upon the western coast of the great continent of America. 



CHAPTER VIII 
"Tarring Down" — Daily Life — "Going Aft" — California 

y^S WE saw neither land nor sail from the time of leaving Juan 
Z_3k Fernandez until our arrival in California, nothing of inter- 
JL JL. est occurred except our own doings on board. We caught the 
south-east trades, and ran before them for nearly three weeks, with- 
out so much as altering a sail or bracing a yard. The captain took 
advantage of this fine weather to get the vessel in order for coming 
upon the coast. The carpenter was employed in fitting up a part of 
the steerage into a trade-room; for our cargo, we now learned, was 
not to be landed, but to be sold by retail from on board; and this 
trade-room was built for the samples and the lighter goods to be 
kept in, and as a place for the general business. In the mean time 
we were employed in working upon the rigging. Everything was 
set up taut, the lower rigging rattled down, or rather rattled up, (ac- 
cording to the modern fashion,) an abundance of spun-yarn and 
seizing-stuff made, and finally, the whole standing rigging, fore and 
aft, was tarred down. This was my first essay at this latter business, 
and I had enough of it; for nearly all of it came upon my friend 

S and myself. The men were needed at the other work, and 

M , the other young man who came out with us, was laid up 

with the rheumatism in his feet, and the boy Sam was rather too 
young and small for the business; and as the winds were light and 
regular, he was kept during most of the daytime at the helm; so 
that nearly all the tarring came upon us. We put on short duck 
frocks, and taking a small bucket of tar and a bunch of oakum in 
our hands, went aloft, one at the main royal-mast-head and the other 
at the fore, and began tarring down. This is an important operation, 
and is usually done about once in six months in vessels upon a 
long voyage. It was done in our vessel several times afterwards, but 
by the whole crew at once, and finished off in a day; but at this 
time, as most of it came upon two of us, and we were new at the 

50 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 5 1 

business, it took us several days. In this operation they always begin 
at the mast-head and work down, tarring the shrouds, back-stays, 
standing parts of the lifts, the ties, runners, etc., and go out to the 
yard-arms, and come in, tarring, as they come, the lifts and foot- 
ropes. Tarring the stays is more difficult, and is done by an operation 
which the sailors call "riding down." A long piece of rope — top- 
gallant-studding-sail halyards, or something of the kind — is taken 
up to the masthead from which the stay leads, and rove through a 
block for a girt-line, or, as the sailors usually call it, a gant-line; 
with the end of this a bowline is taken round the stay, into which 
the man gets with his bucket of tar and a bunch of oakum, and 
the other end being fast on deck, with some one to tend it, he is 
lowered down gradually, and tars the stay carefully as he goes. 
There he "swings aloft 'twixt heaven and earth," and if the rope 
slips, breaks, or is let go, or if the bowline slips, he falls overboard 
or breaks his neck. This, however, is a thing which never enters 
into a sailor's calculation. He only thinks of leaving no holydays, 
(places not tarred,) for in case he should, he would have to go over 
the whole again; or of dropping no tar upon the deck, for then 
there would be a soft word in his ear from the mate. In this manner 
I tarred down all the headstays, but found the rigging about the 
jib-booms, martingale, and spritsail yard, upon which I was after- 
wards put, the hardest. Here you have to hang on with your eye- 
lids and tar with your hands. 

This dirty work could not last forever, and on Saturday night we 
finished it, scraped all the spots from the deck and rails, and, what 
was of more importance to us, cleaned ourselves thoroughly, rolled 
up our tarry frocks and trowsers and laid them away for the next 
occasion, and put on our clean duck clothes, and had a good com- 
fortable sailor's Saturday night. The next day was pleasant, and 
indeed we had but one unpleasant Sunday during the whole voyage, 
and that was off Cape Horn, where we could expect nothing better. 
On Monday we commenced painting, and getting the vessel ready 
for port. This work, too, is done by the crew, and every sailor who has 
been on long voyages is a Httle of a painter, in addition to his other 
accomplishments. We painted her, both inside and out, from the 
truck to the water's edge. The outside is painted by lowering stages 



52 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

over the side by ropes, and on those we sat, with our brushes and 
paint-pots by us, and our feet half the time in the water. This must 
be done, of course, on a smooth day when the vessel does not roll 
much. I remember very well being over the side painting in this 
way, one fine afternoon, our vessel going quietly along at the rate 
of four or five knots, and a pilot-fish, the sure precursor of a shark, 
swimming alongside of us. The captain was leaning over the rail 
watching him, and we went quietly on with our work. In the 
midst of our painting, on — 

Friday, Dec. igth, we crossed the equator for the second time. I 
had the feeling which all have when, for the first time, they find 
themselves living under an entire change of seasons; as, crossing 
the line under a burning sun in the midst of December, and, as I 
afterwards was, beating about among ice and snow on the Fourth 
of July. 

Thursday, Dec. 2^th. This day was Christmas, but it brought us 
no holiday. The only change was that we had a "plum duff" for 
dinner, and the crew quarrelled with the steward because he did not 
give us our usual allowance of molasses to eat with it. He thought 
the plums would be a substitute for the molasses, but we were not 
to be cheated out of our rights in this way. 

Such are the trifles which produce quarrels on shipboard. In fact, 
we had been too long from port. We were getting tired of one 
another, and were in an irritable state, both forward and aft. Our 
fresh provisions were, of course, gone, and the captain had stopped 
our rice, so that we had nothing but salt beef and salt pork through- 
out the week, with the exception of a very small duff on Sunday. 
This added to the discontent; and a thousand little things, daily and 
almost hourly occurring, which no one who has not himself been on 
a long and tedious voyage can conceive of or properly appreciate — 
little wars and rumors of wars, — ^reports of things said in the cabin, 
— misunderstanding of words and looks — apparent abuses, — brought 
us into a state in which everything seemed to go wrong. Every 
encroachment upon the time allowed for rest, appeared unnecessary. 
Every shifting of the studding-sails was only to "haze"^ the crew. 

^Haze is a word of frequent use on board ship, and never, I believe, used else- 
where. It is very expressive to a sailor, and means to punish by hard work. Let an 
officer once say, "I'll haze you," and your fate is fixed. You will be "worked up," 
if you are not a better man than he is. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 53 

In the midst of this state of things, my messmate S and myself 

petitioned the captain for leave to shift our berths from the steerage, 
where we had previously lived, into the forecastle. This, to our 
delight, was granted, and we turned in to bun\ and mess with the 
crew forward. We now began to feel like sailors, which we never 
fully did when we were in the steerage. While there, however use- 
ful and active you may be, you are but a mongrel, — a sort of after- 
guard and "ship's cousin." You are immediately under the eye 
of the officers, cannot dance, sing, play, smoke, make a noise, or 
growl, (i. e. complain,) or take any other sailor's pleasure; and you 
live with the steward, who is usually a go-between; and the crew 
never feel as though you were one of them. But if you live in the 
forecastle, you are "as independent as a wood-sawyer's clerk," (nau- 
tice,) and are a sailor. You hear sailors' talk, learn their ways, their 
peculiarities of feeling as well as speaking and acting; and moreover 
pick up a great deal of curious and useful information in seaman- 
ship, ship's customs, foreign countries, etc., from their long yarns 
and equally long disputes. No man can be a sailor, or know what 
sailors are, unless he has lived in the forecastle with them — turned 
in and out with them, eaten of their dish and drank of their cup. 
After I had been a week there, nothing would have tempted me to 
go back to my old berth, and never afterwards, even in the worst 
of weather, when in a close and leaking forecastle off Cape Horn, did 
I for a moment wish myself in the steerage. Another thing which 
you learn better in the forecastle than you can anywhere else, is to 
make and mend clothes, and this is indispensable to sailors. A large 
part of their watches below they spend at this work, and here I 
learned that art which stood me in so good stead afterwards. 

But to return to the state of the crew. Upon our coming into the 
forecastle, there was some difficulty about the uniting of the allow- 
ances of bread, by which we thought we were to lose a few pounds. 
This set us into a ferment. The captain would not condescend to 
explain, and we went aft in a body, with a Swede, the oldest and 
best sailor of the crew, for spokesman. The recollection of the scene 
that followed always brings up a smile, especially the quarter-deck 
dignity and eloquence of the captain. He was walking the weather 
side of the quarter-deck, and seeing us coming aft, stopped short in 
his walk, and with a voice and look intended to annihilate us, called 



54 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

out, "Well, what the d 1 do you want now?" Whereupon we 

stated our grievances as respectfully as we could, but he broke in 
uf)on us, saying that we were getting fat and lazy, didn't have 
enough to do, and that made us find fault. This provoked us, and 
we began to give word for word. This would never answer. He 
clenched his list, stamped and swore, and sent us all forward, saying, 
with oaths enough interspersed to send the words home, — ^"Away 
with you! go forward every one of youl I'll haze you! I'll work 
you up! You don't have enough to do! If you a'n't careful I'll 
make a hell of the ship! .... You've mistaken your man! I'm 

F T , all the way from 'down east.' I've been through the 

mill, ground, and bolted, and come out a regular-built down-east 
■johnny-ca\e , good when it's hot, but when it's cold, sour and in- 
digestible; — and you'll find me so! The latter part of this harangue 
I remember well, for it made a strong impression, and the "down- 
east johnny-cake" became a by-word for the rest of the voyage. So 
much for our petition for the redress of grievances. The matter 
was however set right, for the mate, after allowing the captain due 
time to cool off, explained it to him, and at night we were all called 
aft to hear another harangue, in which, of course, the whole blame 
of the misunderstanding was thrown upon us. We ventured to hint 
that he would not give us time to explain; but it wouldn't do. We 
were driven back discomfited. Thus the affair blew over, but the 
irritation caused by it remained; and we never had peace or a good 
understanding again so long as the captain and crew remained 
together. 

We continued sailing along in the beautiful temperate climate 
of the Pacific. The Pacific well deserves its name, for except in 
the southern part, at Cape Horn, and in the western parts, near the 
China and Indian oceans, it has few storms, and is never either 
extremely hot or cold. Between the tropics there is a slight haziness, 
like a thin gauze, drawn over the sun, which, without obstructing 
or obscuring the light, tempers the heat which comes down with 
perpendicular fierceness in the Atlantic and Indian tropics. We 
sailed well to the westward to have the full advantage of the north- 
east trades, and when we had reached the latitude of Point Con- 
ception, where it is usual to make the land, we were several hundred 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 55 

miles to the westward of it. We immediately changed our course 
due east, and sailed in that direction for a number of days. At 
length we began to heave-to after dark, for fear of making the 
land at night on a coast where there are no light-houses and but 
indifferent charts, and at daybreak on the morning of 

Tuesday, Jan. iph, i8^^, we made the land at Point Conception, 
lat. 34° 32' N., long. 120° 06' W. The port of Santa Barbara, to 
which we were bound, lying about fifty miles to the southward of 
this point, we continued sailing down the coast during the day 
and following night, and on the next morning, 

Jan. i/fth, /5j5, we came to anchor in the spacious bay of Santa 
Barbara, after a voyage of one hundred and fifty days from Boston, 



CHAPTER IX 
California — A South-easter 

CALIFORNIA extends along nearly the whole of the western 
coast of Mexico, between the gulf of California in the south 
and the bay of Sir Francis Drake on the north, or between 
the 22d and 38th degrees of north latitude. It is subdivided into 
two provinces — Lower or Old California, lying between the gulf 
and the 32d degree of latitude, or near it; (the division line running, 
I believe, between the bay of Todos Santos and the port of San 
Diego;) and New or Upper California, the southernmost port of 
which is San Diego, in lat. 32° 39', and the northernmost, San 
Francisco, situated in the large bay discovered by Sir Francis Drake, 
in lat. 37° 58', and called after him by the English, though the 
Mexicans call it Yerba Buena. Upper California has the seat of its 
government at Monterey, where is also the custom-house, the only 
one on the coast, and at which every vessel intending to trade on 
the coast must enter its cargo before it can commence its traffic. We 
were to trade upon this coast exclusively, and therefore expected 
to go to Monterey at first; but the captain's orders from home were 
to put in at Santa Barbara, which is the central port of the coast, 
and wait there for the agent who lives there, and transacts all the 
business for the firm to which our vessel belonged. 

The bay, or, as it was commonly called, the canal of Santa Bar- 
bara, is very large, being formed by the main land on one side, 
(between Point Conception on the north and Point St. Buena Ven- 
tura on the south,) which here bends in like a crescent, and three 
large islands opposite to it and at the distance of twenty miles. This 
is just sufficient to give it the name of a bay, while at the same time 
it is so large and so much exposed to the south-east and north-west 
winds, that it is little better than an open roadstead; and the whole 
swell of the Pacific ocean rolls in here before a south-easter, and 
breaks with so heavy a surf in the shallow waters, that it is highly 

56 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 57 

dangerous to lie near in to the shore during the south-easter season, 
that is, between the months of November and April. 

This wind (the south-easter) is the bane of the coast of California. 
Between the months of November and April, (including a part of 
each,) which is the rainy season in this latitude, you are never safe 
from it, and accordingly, in the ports which are open to it, vessels 
are obliged, during these months, to lie at anchor at a distance of 
three miles from the shore, with slip-ropes on their cables, ready to 
slip and go to sea at a moment's warning. The only ports which 
are safe from this wind are San Francisco and Monterey in the 
north, and San Diego in the south. 

As it was January when we arrived, and the middle of the south- 
easter season, we accordingly came to anchor at the distance of 
three miles from the shore, in eleven fathoms water, and bent a 
slip-rope and buoys to our cables, cast off the yard-arm gaskets from 
the sails, and stopped them all with rope-yarns. After we had done 
this, the boat went ashore with the captain, and returned with 
orders to the mate to send a boat ashore for him at sundown. I 
did not go in the first boat, and was glad to find that there was 
another going before night; for after so long a voyage as ours had 
been, a few hours is long to pass in sight and out of reach of land. 
We spent the day on board in the usual avocations; but as this was 
the first time we had been without the captain, we felt a little more 
freedom, and looked about us to see what sort of a country we had 
got into, and were to spend a year or two of our lives in. 

In the first place, it was a beautiful day, and so warm that we 
had on straw hats, duck trowsers, and all the summer gear; and 
as this was mid-winter, it spoke well for the climate; and we after- 
wards found that the thermometer never fell to the freezing point 
throughout the winter, and that there was very little difference 
between the seasons, except that during a long period of rainy and 
south-easterly weather, thick clothes were not uncomfortable. 

The large bay lay about us, nearly smooth, as there was hardly 
a breath of wind stirring, though the boat's crew who went ashore 
told us that the long ground swell broke into a heavy surf on the 
beach. There was only one vessel in the port — a long, sharp brig 
of about 300 tons, with raking masts and very square yards, and 



58 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

English colors at her peak. We afterwards learned that she was 
built at Guayaquil, and named the Ayacucho, after the place where 
the battle was fought that gave Peru her independence, and was 
now owned by a Scotchman named Wilson, who commanded her, 
and was engaged in the trade between Callao, the Sandwich Islands, 
and California. She was a fast sailer, as we frequently afterwards 
perceived, and had a crew of Sandwich Islanders on board. Beside 
this vessel there was no object to break the surface of the bay. Two 
points ran out as the horns of the crescent, one of which — the one 
to the westward — was low and sandy, and is that to which vessels 
are obliged to give a wide berth when running out for a south- 
easter; the other is high, bold, and well wooded, and, we were told, 
has a mission upon it, called St. Buenaventura, from which the 
point is named. In the middle of this crescent, directly opposite 
the anchoring ground, lie the mission and town of Santa Barbara, 
on a low, flat plain, but little above the level of the sea, covered with 
grass, though entirely without trees, and surrounded on three sides 
by an amphitheatre of mountains, which slant off to the distance 
of fifteen or twenty miles. The mission stands a little back of the 
town, and is a large building, or rather collection of buildings, in 
the center of which is a high tower, with a belfry of five bells; and 
the whole, being plastered, makes quite a show at a distance, and 
is the mark by which vessels come to anchor. The town lies a little 
nearer to the beach — about half a mile from it — and is composed of 
one-story houses built of brown clay — some of them plastered — 
with red tiles on the roofs. I should judge that there were about 
an hundred of them; and in the midst of them stands the Presidio, 
or fort, built of the same materials, and apparently but little stronger. 
The town is certainly finely situated, with a bay in front, and an 
amphitheatre of hills behind. The only thing which diminishes 
its beauty is, that the hills have no large trees upon them, they hav- 
ing been all burnt by a great fire which swept them off about a 
dozen years before, and they had not yet grown up again. The 
fire was described to me by an inhabitant, as having been a very 
terrible and magnificent sight. The air of the whole valley was 
so heated that the people were obliged to leave the town and take 
up their quarters for several days upon the beach. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 59 

Just before sundown the mate ordered a boat's crew ashore, and 
I went as one of the number. We passed under the stern of the 
English brig, and had a long pull ashore. I shall never forget the 
impression which our first landing on the beach of California made 
upon me. The sun had just gone down; it was getting dusky; the 
damp night wind was beginning to blow, and the heavy swell of 
the Pacific was setting in, and breaking in loud and high "combers" 
upon the beach. We lay on our oars in the swell, just outside of the 
surf, waiting for a good chance to run in, when a boat, which had 
put off from the Ayacucho just after us, came alongside of us, with 
a crew of dusky Sandwich Islanders, talking and hallooing in their 
outlandish tongue. They knew that we were novices in this kind 
of boating, and waited to see us go in. The second mate, however, 
who steered our boat, determined to have the advantage of their 
experience, and would not go in first. Finding, at length, how 
matters stood, they gave a shout, and taking advantage of a great 
comber which came swelling in, rearing its head, and lifting up the 
stern of our boat nearly perpendicular, and again dropping it in 
the trough, they gave three or four long and strong pulls, and went 
in on top of the great wave, throwing their oars overboard, and as 
far from the boat as they could throw them, and jumping out the 
instant that the boat touched the beach, and then seizing hold of 
her and running her up high and dry upon the sand. We saw, at 
once, how it was to be done, and also the necessity of keeping the 
boat "stern on" to the sea; for the instant the sea should strike upon 
her broad-side or quarter, she would be driven up broad-side on, and 
capsized. We pulled strongly in, and as soon as we felt that the sea 
had got hold of us and was carrying us in with the speed of a race- 
horse, we threw the oars as far from the boat as we could, and took 
hold of the gunwale, ready to spring out and seize her when she 
struck, the officer using his utmost strength to keep her stern on. 
We were shot up upon the beach like an arrow from a bow, and 
seizing the boat, ran her up high and dry, and soon picked up our 
oars, and stood by her, ready for the captain to come down. 

Finding that the captain did not come immediately, we put our 
oars in the boat, and leaving one to watch it, walked about the 
beach to see what we could, of the place. The beach is nearly a 



60 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

mile in length between the two points, and of smooth sand. We had 
taken the only good landing-place, which is in the middle; it being 
more stony toward the ends. It is about twenty yards in width 
from high-water mark to a slight bank at which the soil begins, 
and so hard that it is a favorite place for running horses. It was 
growing dark, so that we could just distinguish the dim outlines 
of the two vessels in the offing; and the great seas were rolling in, in 
regular lines, growing larger and larger as they approached the 
shore, and hanging over the beach upon which they were to break, 
when their tops would curl over and turn white with foam, and, 
beginning at one extreme of the line, break rapidly to the other, 
as a long cardhouse falls when the children knock down the cards 
at one end. The Sandwich Islanders, in the mean time, had turned 
their boat round, and ran her down into the water, and were loading 
her with hides and tallow. As this was the work in which we were 
soon to be engaged, we looked on with some curiosity. They ran 
the boat into the water so far that every large sea might float her, 
and two of them, with their trowsers rolled up, stood by the bows, one 
on each side, keeping her in her right position. This was hard 
work; for beside the force they had to use upon the boat, the large 
seas nearly took them oS their legs. The others were running from 
the boat to the bank, upon which, out of the reach of the water, was 
a pile of dry bullocks' hides, doubled lengthwise in the middle, 
and nearly as stiff as boards. These they took upon their heads, one 
or two at a time, and carried down to the boat, where one of their 
number, stowed them away. They were obliged to carry them on 
their heads, to keep them out of the water, and we observed that 
they had on thick woolen caps. "Look here. Bill, and see what you're 
coming to!" said one of our men to another who stood by the boat. 

"Well, D ," said the second mate to me, "this does not look much 

like Cambridge college, does it ? This is what I call 'head wor\.' " To 
tell the truth it did not look very encouraging. 

After they had got through with the hides, they laid hold of the 
bags of tallow, (the bags are made of hide, and are about the size 
of a common meal bag,) and lifting each upon the shoulders of 
two men, one at each end, walked off with them to the boat, and 
prepared to go aboard. Here, too, was something for us to learn. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 6l 

The man who steered, shipped 'his oar and stood up in the stern, 
and those that pulled the after oars sat upon their benches, with 
their oars shipped, ready to strike out as soon as she was afloat. The 
two men at the bows kept their places; and when, at length, a large 
sea came in and floated her, seized hold of the gunwales, and ran 
out with her till they were up to their armpits, and then tumbled 
over the gunwale into the bows, dripping with water. The men 
at the oars struck out, but it wouldn't do; the sea swept back and 
left them nearly high and dry. The two fellows jumped out again; 
and the next time they succeeded better, and, with the help of a 
deal of outlandish hallooing and bawling, got her well off. We 
watched them till they were out of the breakers, and saw them 
steering for their vessel, which was now hidden in the darkness. 
The sand of the beach began to be cold to our bare feet; the frogs 
set up their croaking in the marshes, and one solitary owl, from 
the end of the distant point, gave out his melancholy note, mellowed 
by the distance, and we began to think that it was high time for 
"the old man," as the captain is generally called, to come down. 
In a few minutes we heard something coming towards us. It was a 
man on horseback. He came up on the full gallop, reined up near 
us, addressed a few words to us, and receiving no answer, wheeled 
round and galloped off again. He was nearly as dark as an Indian, 
with a large Spanish hat, blanket cloak or serapa, and leather leggins, 
with a long knife stuck in them. "This is the seventh city that ever 
I was in, and no Christian one neither," said Bill Brown. "Stand 
by!" said Tom, "you haven't seen the worst of it yet." In the midst 
of this conversation the captain appeared; and we winded the boat 
round, shoved her down, and prepared to go off. The captain, who 
had been on the coast before and "knew the ropes," took the steer- 
ing oar, and we went off in the same way as the other boat. I, being 
the youngest, had the pleasure of standing at the bow, and getting 
wet through. We went off well, though the seas were high. Some 
of them lifted us up, and sliding from under us, seemed to let us 
drop through the air like a flat plank upon the body of the water. 
In a few minutes we were in the low, regular swell, and pulled for 
a light, which, as we came up, we found had been run up to our 
trysail gaff. 



$2 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

Coming aboard, we hoisted up all the boats, and diving down 
into the forecastle, changed our wet clothes, and got our supper. 
After supper the sailors lighted their pipes, (cigars, those of us who 
had them,) and we had to tell all we had seen ashore. Then fol- 
lowed conjectures about the people ashore, the length of the voyage, 
carrying hides, etc., etc., until eight bells, when all hands were called 
aft, and the "anchor watch" set. We were to stand two in a watch, 
and as the nights were pretty long, two hours were to make a watch. 
The second mate was to keep the deck until eight o'clock, and all 
hands were to be called at daybreak, and the word was passed to 
keep a bright look-out, and to call the mate if it should come on to 
blow from the south-east. We had also orders to strike the bells 
every half hour through the night, as at sea. My watchmate was 
John, the Swedish sailor, and we stood from twelve to two, he walk- 
ing the larboard side, and I the starboard. At daylight all hands 
were called, and we went through the usual process of washing 
down, swabbing, etc., and got breakfast at eight o'clock. In the 
course of the forenoon, a boat went aboard of the Ayacucho and 
brought off a quarter of beef, which made us a fresh bite for dinner. 
This we were glad enough to have, and the mate told us that we 
should live upon fresh beef while we were on the coast, as it was 
cheaper here than the salt. While at dinner, the cook called, "Sail 
ho!" and coming on deck, we saw two sails coming round the 
point. One was a large ship under top-gallant sails, and the other 
a small hermaphrodite brig. They both backed their top sails and 
sent boats aboard of us. The ship's colors had puzzled us, and we 
found that she was from Genoa, with an assorted cargo, and was 
trading on the coast. She filled away again, and stood out; being 
bound up the coast to San Francisco. The crew of the brig's boat 
were Sandwich Islanders, but one of them, who spoke a little 
English, told us that she was the Loriotte, Captain Nye, from Oahu, 
and was engaged in this trade. She was a lump of a thing — what 
the sailors call a butter-box. This vessel, as well as the Ayacucho, 
and others which we afterwards saw engaged in the same trade, 
have English or Americans for officers, and two or three before the 
mast to do the work upon the rigging, and to rely upon for sea- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 63 

manship, while the rest of the crew are Sandwich Islanders, who 
are active, and very useful in boating. 

The three captains went ashore after dinner, and came off again 
at night. When in port, everything is attended to by the chief mate; 
the captain, unless he is also supercargo, has little to do, and is 
usually ashore much of his time. This we thought would be 
pleasanter for us, as the mate was a good-natured man and not very 
strict. So it was for a time, but we were worse off in the end; for 
wherever the captain is a severe, energetic man, and the mate is 
wanting in both these qualities, there will always be trouble. And 
trouble we had already begun to anticipate. The captain had several 
times found fault with the mate, in presence of the crew; and hints 
had been dropped that all was not right between them. When this 
is the case, and the captain suspects that his chief officer is too easy 
and familiar with the crew, then he begins to interfere in all the 
duties, and to draw the reins taughter, and the crew has to suffer. 



CHAPTER X 
A South-easter — Passage up the Coast 

THIS night, after sundown, it looked black at the southward 
and eastward, and we were told to keep a bright look-out. 
Expecting to be called up, we turned in early. Waking up 
about midnight, I found a man who had just come down from his 
watch striking a light. He said that it was beginning to puff up from 
the south-east, and that the sea was rolling in, and he had called 
the captain; and as he threw himself down on his chest with all his 
clothes on, I knew that he expected to be called. I felt the vessel 
pitching at her anchor, and the chain surging and snapping, and 
lay awake, expecting an instant summons. In a few minutes it came 
— ^three knocks on the scuttle, and "All hands ahoy! bear-a-hand up 
and make sail." We sprang up for our clothes, and were about half 
way dressed, when the mate called out, down the scuttle, "Tumble 
up here, men! tumble up! before she drags her anchor." We were 
on deck in an instant. "Lay aloft and loose the topsails!" shouted 
the captain, as soon as the first man showed himself. Springing 
into the rigging, I saw that the Ayacucho's topsails were loosed, and 
heard her crew singing-out at the sheets as they were hauling them 
home. This had probably started our captain; as "old Wilson" (the 
captain of the Ayacucho) had been many years on the coast, and 
knew the signs of the weather. We soon had the topsails loosed; 
and one hand remaining, as usual, in each top, to overhaul the rig- 
ging and light the sail out, the rest of us came down to man the 
sheets. While sheeting home, we saw the Ayacucho standing 
athwart our hawse, sharp upon the wind, cutting through the head 
seas like a knife, with her raking masts and sharp bows running up 
like the head of a greyhound. It was a beautiful sight. She was 
like a bird which had been frightened and had spread her wings 
in flight. After the topsails had been sheeted home, the head yards 
braced aback, the fore-top-mast staysail hoisted, and the buoys 

64 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 65 

streamed, and all ready forward, for slipping, we went aft and 
manned the slip-rope which came through the stern port with a 
turn round the timber-heads. "All ready forward?" asked the 
captain. "Aye, aye, sir; all ready," answered the mate. "Let go!" 
"All gone, sir;" and the iron cable grated over the windlass and 
through the hawse-hole, and the little vessel's head swinging off 
from the wind under the force of her backed head sails, brought the 
strain upon the slip-rope. "Let go aft!" Instantly all was gone, and 
we were under weigh. As soon as she was well off from the wind, 
we filled away the head yards, braced all up sharp, set the foresail 
and trysail, and left our anchorage well astern, giving the point a 
good berth. "Nye's off too," said the captain to the mate; and 
looking astern we could just see the little hermaphrodite brig under 
sail standing after us. 

It now began to blow fresh; the rain fell fast, and it grew very 
black; but the captain would not take in sail until we were well 
clear of the point. As soon as we left this on our quarter, and were 
standing out to sea, the order was given, and we sprang aloft, 
double reefed each topsail, furled the foresail, and double reefed 
the trysail, and were soon under easy sail. In these cases of slipping 
for south-easters, there is nothing to be done, after you have got 
clear of the coast, but to lie-to under easy sail, and wait for the gale 
to be over, which seldom lasts more than two days, and is often over 
in twelve hours; but the wind never comes back to the southward 
until there has a good deal of rain fallen. "Go below the watch," 
said the mate; but here was a dispute which watch it should be, 
which the mate soon however settled by sending his watch below, 
saying that we should have our turn the next time we got under 
weigh. We remained on deck till the expiration of the watch, the 
wind blowing very fresh and the rain coming down in torrents. 
When the watch came up, we wore ship, and stood on the other 
tack, in towards land. When we came up again, which was at four 
in the morning, it was very dark, and there was not much wind, 
but it was raining as I thought I had never seen it rain before. We 
had on oilcloth suits and south-wester caps, and had nothing to do 
but to stand bolt upright and let it pour down upon us. There are 
no umbrellas, and no sheds to go under at sea. 



66 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

While we were standing about on deck, we saw the little brig 
drifting by us, hove to under her fore topsail double reefed; and 
she glided by like a phantom. Not a word was spoken, and we saw 
no one on deck but the man at the wheel. Toward morning the 
captain put his head out of the companion-way and told the second 
mate, who commanded our watch, to look out for a change of wind, 
which usually followed a calm and heavy rain; and it was well 
that he did; for in a few minutes it fell dead calm, the vessel lost 
her steerage-way, and the rain ceased. We hauled up the trysail 
and courses, squared the after yards, and waited for the change, 
which came in a few minutes, with a vengeance, from the north- 
west, the opposite point of the compass. Owing to our precautions, 
we were not taken aback, but ran before the wind with square 
yards. The captain coming on deck, we braced up a little and stood 
back for our anchorage. With the change of wind came a change 
of weather, and in two hours the wind moderated into the light 
steady breeze, which blows down the coast the greater part of the 
year, and, from its regularity, might be called a trade-wind. The 
sun came up bright, and we set royals, skysails, and studding-sails, 
and were under fair way for Santa Barbara. The little Loriotte was 
astern of us, nearly out of sight; but we saw nothing of the Aya- 
cucho. In a short time she appeared, standing out from Santa Rosa 
Island, under the lee of which she had been hove to, all night. Our 
captain was anxious to get in before her, for it would be a great 
credit to us, on the coast, to beat the Ayacucho, which had been 
called the best sailer in the North Pacific, in which she had been 
known as a trader for six years or more. We had an advantage over 
her in light winds, from our royals and skysails which we carried 
both at the fore and main, and also in our studding-sails; for Cap- 
tain Wilson carried nothing above top-gallant-sails, and always un- 
bent his studding-sails when on the coast. As the wind was light 
and fair, we held our own, for some time, when we were both 
obliged to brace up and come upon a taught bowline, after rounding 
the point; and here he had us on fair ground, and walked away 
from us, as you would haul in a line. He afterwards said that we 
sailed well enough with the wind free, but that give him a taught 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 67 

bowline, and he would beat us, if we had all the canvas of the 
Royal George. 

The Ayacucho got to the anchoring ground about half an hour 
before us, and was furling her sails when we came up to it. This 
picking up your cables is a very nice piece of work. It requires some 
seamanship to do it, and come to at your former moorings, without 
letting go another anchor. Captain Wilson was remarkable, among 
the sailors on the coast, for his skill in doing this; and our captain 
never let go a second anchor during all the time that I was with 
him. Coming a little to the windward of our buoy, we clewed up 
the light sails, backed our main top-sail, and lowered a boat, which 
pulled off, and made fast a spare hawser to the buoy on the end of 
the slip-rope. We brought the other end to the capstan, and hove 
in upon it until we came to the slip-rope, which we took to the 
windlass, and walked her up to her chain, the captain helping her 
by backing and filling the sails. The chain is then passed through 
the hawse-hole and round the windlass, and bitted, the slip-rope 
taken round outside and brought into the stern port, and she is 
safe in her old berth. After we had got through, the mate told us 
that this was a small touch of California, the like of which we 
must expect to have through the winter. 

After we had furled the sails and got dinner, we saw the Loriotte 
nearing, and she had her anchor before night. At sun-down we 
went ashore again, and found the Loriotte's boat waiting on the 
beach. The Sandwich Islander, who could speak English, told us 

that he had been up to the town; that our agent, Mr. R , and 

some other passengers, were going to Monterey with us, and that 

we were to sail the same night. In a few minutes Captain T , 

with two gentlemen and a lady, came down, and we got ready to 
go off. They had a good deal of baggage, which we put into the 
bows of the boat, and then two of us took the seiiora in our arms, 
and waded with her through the water, and put her down safely 
in the stern. She appeared much amused with the transaction, and 
her husband was perfectly satisfied, thinking any arrangement good 
which saved his wetting his feet. I pulled the after oar, so that I 
heard the conversation, and learned that one of the men, who, as 



68 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

well as I could see in the darkness, was a young-looking man, in the 
European dress, and covered up in a large cloak, was the agent of 
the firm to which our vessel belonged; and the other, who was 
dressed in the Spanish dress of the country, was a brother of our 
captain, who had been many years a trader on the coast, and had 
married the lady who was in the boat. She was a delicate, dark- 
complexioned young woman, and of one of the best families in 
California. I also found that we were to sail the same night. As 
soon as we got on board, the boats were hoisted up, the sails loosed, 
the windlass manned, the slip-ropes and gear cast off; and after 
about twenty minutes of heaving at the windlass, making sail, and 
bracing yards, we were well under weigh, and going with a fair 
wind up the coast to Monterey. The Loriotte got under weigh 
at the same time, and was also bound up to Monterey, but as she 
took a different course from us, keeping the land aboard, while we 
kept well out to sea, we soon lost sight of her. We had a fair wind, 
which is something unusual when coming up, as the prevailing 
wind is the north, which blows directly down the coast; whence the 
northern are called the windward, and the southern the leeward 
ports. 



CHAPTER XI 
Passage up the Coast — Monterey 

WE got clear o£ the islands before sunrise the next morning, 
and by twelve o'clock were out of the canal, and off Point 
Conception, the place where we first made the land upon 
our arrival. This is the largest point on the coast, and is uninhabited 
headland, stretching out into the Pacific, and has the reputation of 
being very windy. Any vessel does well which gets by it without a 
gale, especially in the winter season. We were going along with 
studding-sails set on both sides, when, as we came round the point, 
we had to haul our wind, and take in the lee studding-sails. As the 
brig came more upon the wind, she felt it more, and we doused 
the sky-sails, but kept the weather studding-sails on her, bracing the 
yards forward so that the swinging-boom nearly touched the sprit- 
sail yard. She now lay over to it, the wind was freshening, and the 
captain was evidently "dragging on to her." His brother and Mr. 

R , looking a little squally, said something to him, but he only 

answered that he knew the vessel and what she would carry. He 
was evidently showing off his vessel, and letting them know how 
he could carry sail. He stood up to windward, holding on by the 
backstays, and looking up at the sticks, to see how much they would 
bear; when a puff came which settled the matter. Then it was "haul 
down," and "clew up," royals, flying-jib, and studding-sails, all at 
once. There was what the sailors call a "mess" — everything let go, 
nothing hauled in, and everything flying. The poor Spanish woman 
came to the companion-way, looking as pale as a ghost, and nearly 
frightened to death. The mate and some men forward were trying 
to haul in the lower studding-sail, which had blown over the sprit- 
sail yard-arm and round the guys; while the topmast-studding-sail 
boom, after buckling up and springing out again like a piece of 
whalebone, broke off at the boom-iron. I sprang aloft to take in the 
main top-gallant studding-sail, but before I got into the top, the tack 

69 



70 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

parted, and away went the sail, swinging forward of the top-gallant- 
sail, and tearing and slatting itself to pieces. The halyards were at 
this moment let go by the run; and such a piece of work I never 
had before, in taking in a sail. After great exertions I got it, or the 
remains of it, into the top, and was making it fast, when the cap- 
tain, looking up, called out to me, "Lay aloft there, D , and 

furl that main royal." Leaving the studding-sail, I went up to the 
cross trees; and here it looked rather squally. The foot of the 
top-gallant-mast was working between the cross and trussel 
trees, and the royal-mast lay over at a fearful angle with the mast 
below, while everything was working, and cracking, strained to 
the utmost. 

There's nothing for Jack to do but to obey orders, and I went up 
upon the yard; and there was a worse "mess," if possible, than I 
had left below. The braces had been let go, and the yard was swing- 
ing about like a turnpike-gate, and the whole sail having blown 
over to leeward, the lee leach was over the yard-arm, and the sky- 
sail was all adrift and flying over my head. I looked down, but it was 
in vain to attempt to make myself heard, for every one was busy 
below, and the wind roared, and sails were flapping in every direc- 
tion. Fortunately, it was noon and broad daylight, and the man at 
the wheel, who had his eyes aloft, soon saw my difficulty, and after 
numberless signs and gestures, got some one to haul the necessary 
ropes taught. During this interval I took a look below. Everything 
was in confusion on deck; the Uttle vessel was tearing through the 
water as if she were mad, the seas flying over her, and the masts 
leaning over at an angle of forty-five degrees from the vertical. At 

the other royal-mast-head was S , working away at the sail, 

which was blowing from him as fast as he could gather it in. The 
top-gallant-sail below me was soon clewed up, which relieved the 
mast, and in a short time I got my sail furled, and went below; 
but I lost overboard a new tarpaulin hat, which troubled me more 
than anything else. We worked for about half an hour with might 
and main; and in an hour from the time the squall struck us, from 
having all our flying kites abroad, we came down to double-reefed 
top-sails and the storm-sails. 

The wind had hauled ahead during the squall, and we were 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 7 1 

Standing directly in for the point. So, as soon as we had got all 
snug, we wore round and stood off again, and had the pleasant 
prospect of beating up to Monterey, a distance of an hundred miles, 
against a violent head wind. Before night it began to rain; and we 
had five days of rainy, stormy weather, under close sail all the time, 
and were blown several hundred miles off the coast. In the midst of 
this, we discovered that our fore topmast was sprung, (which no 
doubt happened in the squall,) and were obliged to send down the 
fore top-gallant-mast and carry as little sail as possible forward. Our 
four passengers were dreadfully sick, so that we saw little or nothing 
of them during the five days. On the sixth day it cleared off, and 
the sun came out bright, but the wind and sea were still very high. 
It was quite like being at sea again: no land for hundreds of miles, 
and the captain taking the sun every day at noon. Our passengers 
now made their appearance, and I had for the first time the oppor- 
tunity of seeing what a miserable and forlorn creature a sea-sick 
passenger is. Since I had got over my own sickness, the third day 
from Boston, I had seen nothing but hale, hearty men, with their 
sea legs on, and able to go anywhere, (for we had no passengers;) 
and I will own there was a pleasant feeling of superiority in being 
able to walk the deck, and eat, and go about, and comparing one's 
self with two poor, miserable, pale creatures, staggering and shuffling 
about decks, or holding on and looking up with giddy heads, to see 
us climbing to the mast-heads, or sitting quietly at work on the 
ends of the lofty yards. A well man at sea has little sympathy with 
one who is seasick; he is too apt to be conscious of a comparison 
favorable to his own manhood. After a few days we made the land 
at Point Pinos, (pines,) which is the headland at the entrance of 
the bay of Monterey. As we drew in, and ran down the shore, we 
could distinguish well the face of the country, and found it better 
wooded than that to the southward of Point Conception. In fact, 
as I afterwards discovered, Point Conception may be made the 
dividing line between two different faces of the country. As you go 
to the northward of the point, the country becomes more wooded, 
has a richer appearance, and is better supplied with water. This is 
the case with Monterey, and still more so with San Francisco; while 
to the southward of the point, as at Santa Barbara, San Pedro, and 



72 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

particularly San Diego, there is very little wood, and the country 
has a naked, level appearance, though it is still very fertile. 

The bay of Monterey is very wide at the entrance, being about 
twenty-four miles between the two points, Aiio Nuevo at the north, 
and Pinos at the south, but narrows gradually as you approach the 
town, which is situated in a bend, or large cove, at the south- 
eastern extremity, and about eighteen miles from the points, which 
makes the whole depth of the bay. The shores are extremely well 
wooded, (the pine abounding upon them,) and as it was now the 
rainy season, everything was as green as nature could make it, — the 
grass, the leaves, and all; the birds were singing in the woods, and 
great numbers of wild-fowl were flying over our heads. Here we 
could lie safe from the south-easters. We came to anchor within two 
cable lengths of the shore, and the town lay directly before us, 
making a very pretty appearance; its houses being plastered, which 
gives a much better effect than those of Santa Barbara, which are 
of a mud-color. The red tiles, too, on the roofs, contrasted well with 
the white plastered sides and with the extreme greenness of the 
lawn upon which the houses — about an hundred in number — were 
dotted about, here and there, irregularly. There are in this place, 
and in every other town which I saw in California, no streets, or 
fences, (except here and there a small patch was fenced in for a 
garden,) so that the houses are placed at random upon the green, 
which, as they are of one story and of the cottage form, gives them 
a pretty effect when seen from a little distance. 

It was a fine Saturday afternoon when we came to anchor, the 
sun about an hour high, and everything looking pleasantly. The 
Mexican flag was flying from the little square Presidio, and the 
drums and trumpets of the soldiers, who were out on parade, 
sounded over the water, and gave great life to the scene. Every one 
was delighted with the appearance of things. We felt as though we 
had got into a Christian (which in the sailor's vocabulary means 
civilized) country. The first impression which California had 
made upon us was very disagreeable: — the open roadstead of Santa 
Barbara; anchoring three miles from the shore; running out to sea 
before every south-easter; landing in a high surf; with a little dark- 
looking town, a mile from the beach; and not a sound to be heard, 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 73 

or anything to be seen, but Sandwich Islanders, hides, and tallow- 
bags. Add to this the gale o£E Point Conception, and no one can be 
at a loss to account for our agreeable disappointment in Monterey. 
Beside all this, we soon learned, which was of no small importance 
to us, that there was little or no surf here, and this afternoon the 
beach was as smooth as a duck-pond. 

We landed the agent and passengers, and found several persons 
waiting for them on the beach, among whom were some, who, 
though dressed in the costume of the country, spoke English; and 
who, we afterwards learned, were English and Americans who had 
married and settled in the country. 

I also connected with our arrival here another circumstance which 
more nearly concerns myself; viz., my first act of what the sailors 
will allow to be seamanship — sending down a royal-yard. I had 
seen it done once or twice at sea, and an old sailor, whose favor I 
had taken some pains to gain, had taught me carefully everything 
which was necessary to be done, and in its proper order, and advised 
me to take the first opportunity when we were in port, and try it. 
I told the second mate, with whom I had been pretty thick when he 
was before the mast, that I would do it, and got him to ask the mate 
to send me up the first time they were struck. Accordingly I was 
called upon, and went up, repeating the operations over in my mind, 
taking care to get everything in its order, for the slightest mistake 
spoils the whole. Fortunately, I got through without any word from 
the officer, and heard the "well done" of the mate, when the yard 
reached the deck, with as much satisfaction as I ever felt at Cam- 
bridge on seeing a "bene" at the foot of a Latin exercise. 



CHAPTER XII 

Life at Monterey 

THE next day being Sunday, which is the liberty-day among 
merchantmen, when it is usual to let a part of the crew go 
ashore, the sailors had depended upon a day on land, and 
were already disputing who should ask to go, when, upon being 
called in the morning, we were turned-to upon the rigging, and 
found that the topmast, which had been sprung, was to come down, 
and a new one to go up, and top-gallant and royal-masts, and the 
rigging to be set up. This was too bad. If there is anything that 
irritates sailors and makes them feel hardly used, it is being deprived 
of their Sabbath. Not that they would always, or indeed generally, 
spend it religiously, but it is their only day of rest. Then, too, they 
are often necessarily deprived of it by storms, and unavoidable 
duties of all kinds, that to take it from them when lying quietly 
and safely in port, without any urgent reason, bears the more hardly. 
The only reason in this case was, that the captain had determined to 
have the custom-house officers on board on Monday, and wished 
to have his brig in order. Jack is a slave aboard ship; but still he 
has many opportunities of thwarting and balking his master. When 
there is danger, or necessity, or when he is well used, no one can 
work faster than he; but the instant he feels that he is kept at work 
for nothing, no sloth could make less headway. He must not refuse 
his duty, or be in any way disobedient, but all the work that an 
officer gets out of him, he may be welcome to. Every man who 
has been three months at sea knows how to "work Tom Cox's 
traverse" — ^"three turns round the long-boat, and a pull at the 
scuttled-butt." This morning everything went in this way. "Soger- 
ing" was the order of the day. Send a man below to get a block, 
and he would capsize everything before finding it, then not bring 
it up till an officer had called him twice, and take as much time to 
put things in order again. Marline-spikes were not to be found; 

74 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 75 

knives wanted a prodigious deal of sharpening, and, generally, three 
or four were waiting round the grindstone at a time. When a man 
got to the mast-head, he would come slowly down again to get 
something which he had forgotten; and after the tackles were got 
up, six men would pull less than three who pulled "with a will." 
When the mate was out of sight, nothing was done. It was all uj)- 
hill work; and at eight o'clock, when we went to breakfast, things 
were nearly where they were when we began. 

During our short meal, the matter was discussed. One proposed 
refusing to work; but that was mutiny, and of course was rejected 
at once. I remember, too, that one of the men quoted "Father 
Taylor," (as they call the seamen's preacher at Boston,) who told 
them that if they were ordered to work on Sunday, they must not 
refuse their duty, and the blame would not come upon them. After 
breakfast, it leaked out, through the officers, that if we would get 
through our work soon, we might have a boat in the afternoon and 
go fishing. This bait was well thrown, and took with several who 
were fond of fishing; and all began to find that as we had one thing 
to do, and were not to be kept at work for the day, the sooner we 
did it, the better. 

Accordingly, things took a new aspect; and before two o'clock this 
work, which was in a fair way to last two days, was done; and five 
of us went a fishing in the jolly-boat, in the direction of Point Pinos; 
but leave to go ashore was refused. Here we saw the Loriotte, which 
sailed with us from Santa Barbara, coming slowly in with a light 
sea-breeze, which sets in towards afternoon, having been becalmed 
off the point all the first part of the day. We took several fish of 

various kinds, among which cod and perch abounded, and F , 

(the ci-devant second mate,) who was of our number, brought up 
with his hook a large and beautiful pearl-oyster shell. We afterwards 
learned that this place was celebrated for shells, and that a small 
schooner had made a good voyage, by carrying a cargo of them to 
the United States. 

We returned by sun-down, and found the Loriotte at anchor, 
within a cable's length of the Pilgrim. The next day we were 
"turned-to" early, and began taking off the hatches, overhauling 
the cargo, and getting everything ready for inspection. At eight, 



76 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

the officers of the customs, five in number, came on board, and began 
overhauling the cargo, manifest, etc. 

The Mexican revenue laws are very strict, and require the whole 
cargo to be landed, examined, and taken on board again; but our 

agent, Mr. R , had succeeded in compounding with them for the 

two last vessels, and saving the trouble of taking the cargo ashore. 
The officers were dressed in the costume which we found prevailed 
through the country. A broad-brimmed hat, usually of a black or 
dark-brown color, with a gilt or figured band round the crown, and 
lined inside with silk; a short jacket of silk or figured calico, (the 
European skirted body-coat is never worn;) the shirt open in the 
neck; rich waistcoat, if any; pantaloons wide, straight, and long, 
usually of velvet, velveteen, or broadcloth; or else short breeches 
and white stockings. They wear the deer-skin shoe, which is of a 
dark-brown color, and, (being made by Indians,) usually a good deal 
ornamented. They have no suspenders, but always wear a sash round 
the waist, which is generally red, and varying in quality with the 
means of the wearer. Add to this the never-failing cloak, and you 
have the dress of the Californian. This last garment', the cloak, is 
always a mark of the rank and wealth of the owner. The "gente 
de razon," or aristocracy, wear cloaks of black or dark blue broad- 
cloth, with as much velvet and trimmings as may be; and from this 
they go down to the blanket of the Indian; the middle classes wear- 
ing something like a large table-cloth, with a hole in the middle for 
the head to go through. This is often as coarse as a blanket, but 
being beautifully woven with various colors, is quite showy at a 
distance. Among the Mexicans there is no working class; (the 
Indians being slaves and doing all the hard work;) and every rich 
man looks like a grandee, and every poor scamp like a broken-down 
gentleman. I have often seen a man with a fine figure, and courteous 
manners, dressed in broadcloth and velvet, with a noble horse com- 
pletely covered with trappings; without a real in his pocket, and 
absolutely suffering for something to eat. 



CHAPTER XIII 
Trading — A British Sailor 

THE next day, the cargo having been entered in due form, 
we began trading. The trade-room was fitted up in the 
steerage, and furnished out with the Hghter goods, and 

with specimens of the rest of the cargo; and M , a young man 

who came out from Boston with us, before the mast, was taken out of 
the forecastle, and made supercargo's clerk. He was well qualified 
for the business, having been clerk in a counting-house in Boston. 
He had been troubled for some time with the rheumatism, which 
unfitted him for the wet and exposed duty of a sailor on the coast. 
For a week or ten days all was life on board. The people came off 
to look and to buy — men, women, and children; and we were 
continually going in the boats, carrying goods and passengers, — 
for they have no boats of their own. Everything must dress itself 
and come aboard and see the new vessel, if it were only to buy a 
paper of pins. The agent and his clerk managed the sales, while we 
were busy in the hold or in the boats. Our cargo was an assorted 
one; that is, it consisted of everything under the sun. We had spirits 
of all kinds, (sold by the cask,) teas, coffee, sugars, spices, raisins, 
molasses, hardware, crockery-ware, tinware, cutlery, clothing of all 
kinds, boots and shoes from Lynn, calicoes and cottons from Lowell, 
crepes, silks; also shawls, scarfs, necklaces, jewelry, and combs for 
the ladies; furniture; and in fact, everything that can be imagined, 
from Chinese fire-works to English cart-wheels — of which we had 
a dozen pairs with their iron rims on. 

The Californians are an idle, thriftless people, and can make 
nothing for themselves. The country abounds in grapes, yet they 
buy bad wines made in Boston and brought round by us, at an im- 
mense price, and retail it among themselves at a real (12I/2 cents) by 
the small wine-glass. Their hides, too, which they value at two 
dollars in money, they give for something which costs seventy-five 

77 



yS RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

cents in Boston; and buy shoes (like as not, made of their own hides, 
and which have been carried twice around Cape Horn) at three 
or four dollars, and "chicken-skin" boots at fifteen dollars apiece. 
Things sell, on an average, at an advance of nearly three hundred 
per cent upon the Boston prices. This is partly owing to the heavy 
duties which the government, in their wisdom, with the intent, 
no doubt, of keeping the silver in the country, has laid upon imports. 
These duties, and the enormous expenses of so long a voyage, keep 
all merchants, but those of heavy capital, from engaging in the 
trade. Nearly two-thirds of all the articles imported into the country 
from round Cape Horn, for the last six years, have been by the 
single house of Bryant, Sturgis & Co., to whom our vessel belonged, 
and who have a permanent agent on the coast. 

This kind of business was new to us, and we liked it very well 
for a few days, though we were hard at work every minute from 
daylight to dark; and sometimes even later. 

By being thus continually engaged in transporting passengers 
with their goods, to and fro, we gained considerable knowledge 
of the character, dress, and language of the people. The dress of 
the men was as I have before described it. The women wore gowns 
of various texture — silks, crape, calicoes, etc., — made after the Euro- 
pean style, except that the sleeves were short, leaving the arm bare, 
and that they were loose about the waist, having no corsets. They 
wore shoes of kid, or satin; sashes or belts of bright colors; and 
■almost always a necklace and ear-rings. Bonnets they had none. I 
only saw one on the coast, and that belonged to the wife of an 
American sea-captain who had settled in San Diego, and had 
imported the chaotic mass of straw and ribbon, as a choice present 
to his new wife. They wear their hair (which is almost invariably 
tlack, or a very dark brown) long in their necks, sometimes loose, 
and sometimes in long braids; though the married women often 
do it up on a high comb. Their only protecdon against the sun and 
weather is a large mantle which they put over their heads, drawing 
it close round their faces, when they go out of doors, which is gen- 
erally only in pleasant weather. When in the house, or sitting out 
in front of it, which they often do in fine weather, they usually 
wear a small scarf or neckerchief of a rich pattern. A band, also. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 79 

about the top of the head, with a cross, star, or other ornament in 
front, is common. Their complexions are various, depending — as 
well as their dress and manner — upon their rank; or, in other words, 
upon the amount of Spanish blood they can lay claim to. Those 
who are of pure Spanish blood, having never intermarried with the 
aborigines, have clear brunette complexions, and sometimes, even 
as fair as those of English women. There are but few of these 
families in California; being mostly those in official stations, or 
who, on the expiration of their offices, have settled here upon 
property which they have acquired; and others who have been 
banished for state offences. These form the aristocracy; inter- 
marrying, and keeping up an exclusive system in every respect. 
They can be told by their complexions, dress, manner, and also by 
their speech; for, calling themselves Castilians, they are very 
ambitious of speaking the pure Castilian language, which is spoken 
in a somewhat corrupted dialect by the lower classes. From this 
upper class, they go down by regular shades, growing more and 
more dark and muddy, until you come to the pure Indian, who 
runs about with nothing upon him but a small piece of cloth, kept 
up by a wide leather strap drawn round his waist. Generally 
speaking, each person's caste is decided by the quality of the blood, 
which shows itself, too plainly to be concealed, at first sight. Yet 
the least drop of Spanish blood, if it be only of quadroon or octoroon, 
is sufficient to raise them from the rank of slaves, and entitle them 
to a suit of clothes — ^boots, hat, cloak, spurs, long knife, and all com- 
plete, though coarse and dirty as may be, — and to call themselves 
Espaiiolos, and to hold property, if they can get any. 

The fondness for dress among the women is excessive, and is 
often the ruin of many of them. A present of a fine mantle, or of 
a necklace or pair of ear-rings, gains the favor of the greater part 
of them. Nothing is more common than to see a woman living in 
a house of only two rooms, and the ground for a floor, dressed in 
spangled satin shoes, silk gown, high comb, and gilt, if not gold, 
ear-rings and necklace. If their husbands do not dress them well 
enough, they will soon receive presents from others. They used to 
spend whole days on board our vessels, examining the fine clothes 
and ornaments, and frequently made purchases at a rate which 



8o RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

would have made a seamstress or waiting-maid in Boston open 
her eyes. 

Next to the love of dress, I was most struck with the fineness of 
the voices and beauty of the intonations of both sexes. Every 
common ruiBan-looking fellow, with a slouched hat, blanket cloak, 
dirty under-dress, and soiled leather leggins, appeared to me to be 
speaking elegant Spanish. It was a pleasure, simply to listen to the 
sound of the language, before I could attach any meaning to it. 
They have a good deal of the Creole drawl, but it is varied with an 
occasional extreme rapidity of utterance, in which they seem to skip 
from consonant to consonant, until, lighting upon a broad, open 
vowel, they rest upon that to restore the balance of sound. The 
women carry this pecuharity of speaking to a much greater extreme 
than the men, who have more evenness and stateliness of utterance. 
A common bullock-driver, on horseback, delivering a message, 
seemed to speak like an ambassador at an audience. In fact, they 
sometimes appeared to me to be a people on whom a curse had 
fallen, and stripped them of everything but their pride, their 
manners, and their voices. 

Another thing that surprised me was the quantity of silver that 
was in circulation. I certainly never saw so much silver at one 
time in my life, as during the week that we were at Monterey. The 
truth is, they have no credit system, no banks, and no way of 
investing money but in cattle. They have no circulating medium 
but silver and hides — which the sailors call "California bank notes." 
Everything that they buy they must pay for in one or the other of 
these things. The hides they bring down dried and doubled, in 
clumsy ox-carts, or upon mules' backs, and the money they carry 
tied up in a handkerchief; — ^fifty, eighty, or an hundred dollars 
and half dollars. 

I had never studied Spanish while at college, and could not speak 
a word, when at Juan Fernandez; but during the latter part of the 
passage out, I borrowed a grammar and dictionary from the cabin, 
and by a continual use of these, and a careful attention to every word 
that I heard spoken, I soon got a vocabulary together, and began 
talking for myself. As I soon knew more Spanish than any of the 
crew, (who indeed knew none at all,) and had been at college and 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 8l 

knew Latin, I got the name of a great linguist, and was always sent 
for by the captain and officers to get provisions, or to carry letters and 
messages to different parts of the town. I was often sent to get 
something which I could not tell the name of to save my life; but 
I liked the business, and accordingly never pleaded ignorance. 
Sometimes I managed to jump below and take a look at my dic- 
tionary before going ashore; or else I overhauled some English 
resident on my way, and got the word from him; and then, by 
signs, and the help of my Latin and French, contrived to get along. 
This was a good exercise for me, and no doubt taught me more than 
I should have learned by months of study and reading; it also gave 
me opportunities of seeing the customs, characters, and domestic 
arrangements of the people; beside being a great relief from the 
monotony of a day spent on board ship. 

Monterey, as far as my observation goes, is decidedly the pleas- 
antest and most civilized-looking place in California. In the centre 
of it is an open square, surrounded by four lines of one-story 
plastered buildings, with half a dozen cannon in the centre; some 
mounted, and others not. This is the "Presidio," or fort. Every 
town has a presidio in its centre; or rather, every presidio has a town 
built around it; for the forts were first built by the Mexican govern- 
ment, and then the people built near them for protection. The 
presidio here was entirely open and unfortified. There were several 
officers with long titles, and about eighty soldiers, but they were 
poorly paid, fed, clothed, and disciplined. The governor-general, or, 
as he is commonly called, the "general," lives here; which makes it 
the seat of government. He is appointed by the central government 
at Mexico, and is the chief civil and military officer. In addition to 
him, each town has a commandant, who is the chief military officer, 
and has charge of the fort, and of all transactions with foreigners 
and foreign vessels; and two or three alcaldes and corregidores, 
elected by the inhabitants, who are the civil officers. Courts and 
jurisprudence they have no knowledge of. Small municipal matters 
are regulated by the alcaldes and corregidores; and everything relat- 
ing to the general government, to the military, and to foreigners, 
by the commandants, acting under the governor-general. Capital 
cases are decided by him, upon personal inspection, if he is near; 



82 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

or upon minutes sent by the proper officers, if the offender is at a 
distant place. No Protestant has any civil rights, nor can he hold 
any property, or, indeed, remain more than a few weeks on shore, 
unless he belong to some vessel. Consequently, the Americans and 
English who intend to remain here become Catholics, to a man; 
the current phrase among them being, — "A man must leave his con- 
science at Cape Horn." 

But to return to Monterey. The houses here, as everywhere else 
in California, are of one story, built of clay made into large bricks, 
about a foot and a half square and three or four inches thick, and 
hardened in the sun. These are cemented together by mortar of the 
same material, and the whole are of a common dirKolor. The floors 
are generally of earth, the windows grated and without glass; and 
the doors, which are seldom shut, open directly into the common 
room; there being no entries. Some of the more wealthy inhabitants 
have glass to their windows and board floors; and in Monterey 
nearly all the houses are plastered on the outside. The better houses, 
too, have red tiles upon the roofs. The common ones have two or 
three rooms which open into each other, and are furnished with a 
bed or two, a few chairs and tables, a looking-glass, a crucifix of 
some material or other, and small daubs of paintings enclosed in 
glass, and representing some miracle or martyrdom. They have no 
chimneys or fire-places in the houses, the climate being such as to 
make a fire unnecessary; and all their cooking is done in a small 
cook-house, separated from the house. The Indians, as I have said 
before, do all the hard work, two or three being attached to each 
house; and the poorest persons are able to keep one, at least, for 
they have only to feed them and give them a small piece of coarse 
cloth and a belt, for the males; and a coarse gown, without shoes or 
stockings, for the females. 

In Monterey there are a number of English and Americans (Eng- 
lish or "Ingles" all are called who speak the English language) who 
have married Californians, become united to the Catholic church, 
and acquired considerable property. Having more industry, frugal- 
ity, and enterprise than the natives, they soon get nearly all the 
trade into their hands. They usually keep shops, in which they 
retail the goods purchased in larger quantities from our vessels, and 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 83 

also send a good deal into the interior, taking hides in pay, which 
they again barter with our vessels. In every town on the coast there 
are foreigners engaged in this kind of trade, while I recollect but 
two shops kept by natives. The people are generally suspicious of 
foreigners, and they would not be allowed to remain, were it not 
that they become good Catholics, and by marrying natives, and 
bringing up their children as Catholics and Mexicans, and not teach- 
ing them the English language, they quiet suspicion, and even be- 
come popular and leading men. The chief alcaldes in Monterey and 
Santa Barbara were both Yankees by birth. 

The men in Monterey appeared to me to be always on horseback. 
Horses are as abundant here as dogs and chickens were in Juan Fer- 
nandez. There are no stables to keep them in, but they are allowed 
to run wild and graze wherever they please, being branded, and 
having long leather ropes, called "lassos," attached to their necks 
and dragging along behind them, by which they can be easily taken. 
The men usually catch one in the morning, throw a saddle and 
bridle upon him, and use him for the day, and let him go at night, 
catching another the next day. When they go on long journeys, 
they ride one horse down, and catch another, throw the saddle and 
bridle upon him, and after riding him down, take a third, and so on 
to the end of the journey. There are probably no better riders in 
the world. They get upon a horse when only four or five years 
old, their little legs not long enough to come half way over his 
sides; and may almost be said to keep on him until they have grown 
to him. The stirrups are covered or boxed up in front, to prevent 
their catching when riding through the woods; and the saddles are 
large and heavy, strapped very tight upon the horse, and have large 
pommels, or loggerheads, in front, round which the "lasso" is coiled 
when not in use. They can hardly go from one house to another 
without getting on a horse, there being generally several standing 
tied to the door-posts of the little cottages. When they wish to show 
their activity, they make no use of their stirrups in mounting, but 
striking the horse, spring into the saddle as he starts, and sticking 
their long spurs into him, go o£E on the full rim. Their spurs are 
cruel things, having four or five rowels, each an inch in length, dull 
and rusty. The flanks of the horses are often sore from them, and I 



84 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

have seen men come in from chasing bullocks with their horses' 
hind legs and quarters covered with blood. They frequently give 
exhibitions of their horsemanship, in races, bull-baitings, etc.; but 
as we were not ashore during any holyday, we saw nothing of it. 
Monterey is also a great place for cock-fighting, gambling of all 
sorts, fandangos, and every kind of amusement and knavery. Trap- 
pers and hunters, who occasionally arrive here from over the Rocky 
mountains, with their valuable skins and furs, are often entertained 
with every sort of amusement and dissipation, until they have wasted 
their time and their money, and go back, stripped of everything. 

Nothing but the character of the people prevents Monterey from 
becoming a great town. The soil is as rich as man could wish; 
climate as good as any in the world; water abundant, and situation 
extremely beautiful. The harbor, too, is a good one, being subject 
only to one bad wind, the north; and though the holding-ground 
is not the best, yet I heard of but one vessel's being driven ashore 
here. That was a Mexican brig, which went ashore a few months 
before our arrival, and was a total wreck, all the crew but one being 
drowned. Yet this was from the carelessness or ignorance of the 
captain, who paid out all his small cable before he let go his other 
anchor. The ship Lagoda, of Boston, was there at the time, and rode 
out the gale in safety, without dragging at all, or finding it necessary 
to strike her top-gallant masts. 

The only vessel in port with us was the little Loriotte. I frequently 
went on board her, and became very well acquainted with her 
Sandwich Island crew. One of them could speak a little English, 
and from him I learned a good deal about them. They were well 
formed and active, with black eyes, intelligent countenances, dark- 
olive, or, I should rather say, copper complexions and coarse black 
hair, but not woolly like the negroes. They appeared to be talking 
continually. In the forecastle there was a complete Babel. Their 
language is extremely guttural, and not pleasant at first, but im- 
proves as you hear it more, and is said to have great capacity. They 
use a good deal of gesticulation, and are exceedingly animated, 
saying with their might what their tongues find to say. They are 
complete water-dogs, therefore very good in boating. It is for this 
reason that there are so many of them on the coast of California; 
they being very good hands in the surf. They are also quick and 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 85 

active in the rigging, and good hands in warm weather; but those 
who have been with them round Cape Horn, and in high latitudes, 
say that they are useless in cold weather. In their dress they are 
precisely like our sailors. In addition to these Islanders, the vessel 
had two English sailors, who acted as boatswains over the Islanders, 
and took care o£ the rigging. One of them I shall always remember 
as the best specimen of the thoroughbred English sailor that I ever 
saw. He had been to sea from a boy, having served a regular 
apprenticeship of seven years, as all English sailors are obliged to 
do, and was then about four or five and twenty. He was tall; but 
you only perceived it when he was standing by the side of others, 
for the great breadth of his shoulders and chest made him appear 
but little above the middle height. His chest was as deep as it was 
wide; his arm like that of Hercules; and his hand "the fist of a tar 
— every hair a rope-yarn." With all this he had one of the pleasantest 
smiles I ever saw. His cheeks were of a handsome brown; his 
teeth brilliantly white; and his hair, of a raven black, waved in 
loose curls all over his head, and fine, open forehead; and his eyes 
he might have sold to a duchess at the price of diamonds, for their 
brilliancy. As for their color, they were like the Irishman's pig, 
which would not stay to be counted, every change of position and 
light seemed to give them a new hue; but their prevailing color was 
black, or nearly so. Take him with his well-varnished black tarpaulin 
stuck upon the back of his head; his long locks coming down almost 
into his eyes; his white duck trowsers and shirt; blue jacket; and 
black kerchief, tied loosely round his neck; and he was a fine speci- 
men of manly beauty. On his broad chest he had stamped with India 
ink "Parting moments;" — a ship ready to sail; a boat on the beach; 
and a girl and her sailor lover taking their farewell. Underneath 
were printed the initials of his own name, and two other 
letters, standing for some name which he knew better than I did. 
This was very well done, having been executed by a man who made 
it his business to print with India ink, for sailors, at Havre. On 
one of his broad arms, he had the crucifixion, and on the other the 
sign of the "foul anchor." 

He was very fond of reading, and we lent him most of the books 
which we had in the forecastle, which he read and returned to us 
the next time we fell in with him. He had a good deal of informa- 



86 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

tion, and his captain said he was a perfect seaman, and worth his 
weight in gold on board a vessel, in fair weather and in foul. His 
strength must have been great, and he had the sight of a vulture. 
It is strange that one should be so minute in the description of an 
unknown, outcast sailor, whom one may never see again, and whom 
no one may care to hear about; but so it is. Some people we see 
under no remarkable circumstances, but whom, for some reason or 
other, we never forget. He called himself Bill Jackson; and I know 
no one of all my accidental acquaintances to whom I would more 
gladly give a shake of the hand than to him. Whoever falls in with 
him will find a handsome, hearty fellow, and a good shipmate. 

Sunday came again while we were at Monterey, but as before, 
it brought us no holyday. The people on shore dressed themselves 
and came off in greater numbers than ever, and we were em- 
ployed all day in boating and breaking out cargo, so that we had 
hardly time to eat. Our cidevant second mate, who was determined 
to get liberty if it was to be had, dressed himself in a long coat and 
black hat, and polished his shoes, and went aft and asked to go 
ashore. He could not have done a more imprudent thing; for he 
knew that no liberty would be given; and besides, sailors, however 
sure they may be of having liberty granted them always go aft in 
their working clothes, to appear as though they had no reason to 
expect anything, and then wash, dress, and shave, after they get 
their liberty. But this poor fellow was always getting into hot water, 
and if there was a wrong way of doing a thing, was sure to hit 
upon it. We looked to see him go aft, knowing pretty well what 
his reception would be. The captain was walking the quarter-deck, 

smoking his morning cigar, and F went as far as the break of 

the deck, and there waited for him to notice him. The captain 
took two or three turns, and then walking directly up to him, sur- 
veyed him from head to foot, and lifting up his forefinger, said a 
word or two, in a tone too low for us to hear, but which had a 

magical effect upon poor F . He walked forward, sprang into 

the forecastle, and in a moment more made his appearance in his 
common clothes, and WBnt quietly to work again. What the 
captain said to him, we never could get him to tell, but it certainly 
changed him outwardly and inwardly in a most surprising manner. 



CHAPTER XIV 

Santa Barbara — ^Hide-Droghing — Harbor Duties — ^Discontent — 

San Pedro 

^FTER a few days, finding the trade beginning to slacken, we 
JL\ hove our anchor up, set our topsails, ran the stars and stripes 
X .A. up to the peak, fired a gun, which was returned from the 
Presidio, and left the little town astern, running out of the bay, and 
bearing down the coast again, for Santa Barbara. As we were now 
going to leeward, we had a fair wind and a plenty of it. After 
doubling Point Pinos, we bore up, set studding-sails alow and aloft, 
and were walking ofl at the rate of eight or nine knots, promising 
to traverse in twenty-four hours the distance which we were nearly 
three weeks in traversing on the passage up. We passed Point Con- 
ception at a flying rate, the wind blowing so that it would have 
seemed half a gale to us, if we had been going the other way and 
close hauled. As we drew near the islands off Santa Barbara, it 
died away a little but we came-to at our old anchoring-ground in less 
than thirty hours from the time of leaving Monterey. 

Here everything was pretty much as we left it — the large bay 
without a vessel in it; the surf roaring and rolling in upon the 
beach; the white mission; the dark town and the high, treeless 
mountains. Here, too, we had our south-easter tacks aboard again, 
— slip-ropes, buoy-ropes, sails furled with reefs in them, and rope- 
yarns for gaskets. We lay here about a fortnight, employed in land- 
ing goods and taking off hides, occasionally, when the surf was not 
high; but there did not appear to be one-half the business doing 
here that there was in Monterey. In fact, so far as we were con- 
cerned, the town might almost as well have been in the middle of 
the Cordilleras. We lay at a distance of three miles from the beach, 
and the town was nearly a mile farther; so that we saw little or 
nothing of it. Occasionally we landed a few goods, which were 
taken away by Indians in large, clumsy ox-carts, with the yoke on 

87 



88 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

the ox's neck instead of under it, and with small solid wheels. A few 
hide's were brought down, which we carried off in the California 
style. This we had now got pretty well accustomed to; and hard- 
ened to also; for it does require a little hardening even to' the 
toughest. 

The hides are always brought down dry, or they would not be 
received. When they are taken from the animal, they have holes 
cut in the ends, and are staked ou.t, and thus dried in ther sun with- 
out shrinking. They are then doubled once, lengthwise, with the 
hair side usually in, and sent down, upon mules or in carts, and 
piled above highwater mark; and then we cake them upon our 
heads, one at a time, or two, if they are small, and wade out with 
them and throw them into the boat, which as there are' no wharves, 
we are u'sually kept anchored by a small kedge, or keelek, just out- 
side, of the surf. We all provided ourselves with thick Scotch' caps, 
which would be soft to the head, and at the same time protect it; 
for we soon found that however it might look or feel at first the 
"head-work" was the only system for California. For besides that 
the seas, br'eaking high, often obliged us to carry the hides so, in 
order to keep them dry, we found that, as they were very large and 
heavy, and nearly as stiff as boards, it was the only way that we 
could carry them with any convenience to ourselves. Some of the 
crew tried other expedients, saying that they looked too much like 
West India negroes; but they all came to it at last. The great art 
is in getting them on the head. We had to take them from- the 
ground, and as they were often very heavy, and as wide as the arms 
could stretch and easily taken by the wind, we used to have some 
trouble with them. I have often been laughed at myself, and joined 
in laughing at others, pitching themselves down in the sand, trying 
to swing a large hide upon their heads, or nearly blown over with 
one in a little gust of wind. The captain made it harder for us, by 
telling us that it was "California fashion" to carry two on the head 
at a time; and as he insisted upon it, and we did not wish to be 
outdone by other vessels, we carried two for the first few months; 
but after falling in with a few other "hide-droghers," and finding 
that they carried only one at a time we "knocked off" the extra one, 
and thus made our duty somewhat easier. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 89 

After we had got our heads used to the weight, and had learned 
the true CaHfornia style of tossing a hide, we could carry off two or 
three hundred in a short time, without much trouble; but it was 
always wet work, and, if the beach was stony, bad for our feet; for 
we, of course, always went barefooted on this duty, as no shoes 
could stand such constant wetting with salt water. Then, too, we 
had a long pull of three miles, with a loaded boat, which often 
took a couple of hours. 

We had now got well settled down into our harbor duties, which, 
as they are a good deal different from those at sea, it may be well 
enough to describe. In the first place, all hands are called at day- 
light, or rather — especially if the days are short — ^before daylight, as 
soon as the first grey of the morning. The cook makes his fire in the 
galley; the steward goes about his work in the cabin; and the crew 
rig the head pump, and wash down the decks. The chief mate is 
always on deck, but takes no active part, all the duty coming upon 
the second mate, who has to roll up his trowsers and paddle about 
decks barefooted, like the rest of the crew. The washing, swabbing, 
squilgeeing, etc., lasts, or is made to last, until eight o'clock, when 
breakfast is ordered, fore and aft. After breakfast, for which half 
an hour is allowed, the boats are lowered down, and made fast 
astern, or out to the swinging booms, by ges-warps, and the crew 
are turned-to upon their day's work. This is various, and its char- 
acter depends upon circumstances. There is always more or less of 
boating, in small boats; and if heavy goods are to be taken ashore, 
or hides are brought down to the beach for us, then all hands are 
sent ashore with an officer in the long boat. Then there is always 
a good deal to be done in the hold: goods to be broken out; and 
cargo to be shifted, to make room for hides, or to keep the trim 
of the vessel. In addition to this, the usual work upon the rigging 
must be done. There is a good deal of the latter kind of work 
which can only be done when the vessel is in port; — and then 
everything must be kept taught and in good order; spun-yarn made; 
chafing gear repaired; and all the other ordinary work. The great 
difference between sea and harbor duty is in the division of time. 
Instead of having a watch on deck and a watch below, as at sea, 
all hands are at work together, except at meal times, from daylight 



90 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

till dark; and at night an "anchor- watch" is kept, which consists 

of only two at a time; the whole Ciew taking turns. An hour is 
allowed for dinner, and at dark, the decks are cleared up; the boats 
hoisted; supper ordered; and at eight, the lights put out, except in 
the binnacle, where the glass stands; and the anchor-watch is set. 
Thus, when at anchor, the crew have more time at night, (stand- 
ing watch only about two hours,) but have no time to themselves 
in the day; so that reading, mending clothes, etc., has to be put oil 
until Sunday, which is usually given. Some religious captains give 
their crews Saturday afternoons to do their washing and mending 
in, so that they may have their Sundays free. This is a good ar- 
rangement, and does much toward creating the preference sailors 
usually show for religious vessels. We were well satisfied if we 
got Sunday to ourselves, for, if any hides came down on that day, 
as was often the case when they were brought from a distance, we 
were obliged to bring them off, which usually took half a day; 
and as we now lived on fresh beef, and ate one bullock a week, 
the animal was almost always brought down on Sunday, and we 
had to go ashore, kill it, dress it, and bring it aboard, which was 
another interruption. Then, too, our common day's work was 
protracted and made more fatiguing by hides coming down late 
in the afternoon, which sometimes kept us at work in the surf by 
star-light, with the prospect of pulling on board, and stowing them 
all away, before supper. 

But all these little vexations and labors would have been nothing, 
— they would have been passed by as the common evils of a sea-life, 
which every sailor, who is a man, will go through without com- 
plaint, — were it not for the uncertainty, or worse than uncertainty, 
which hung over the nature and length of our voyage. Here we 
were, in a little vessel, with a small crew, on a half-civilized coast, 
at the ends of the earth, and with a prospect of remaining an 
indefinite period, two or three years at the least. When we left 
Boston we supposed that it was to be a voyage of eighteen months, 
or two years, at most; but upon arriving on the coast, we learned 
something more of the trade, and found that in the scarcity of 
hides, which was yearly greater and greater, it would take us a 
year, at least, to collect our own cargo, beside the passage out and 
home; and that we were also to collect a cargo for a large ship 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST pi 

belonging to the same firm, which was soon to come on the coast, 
and to which we were to act as tender. We had heard rumors of 
such a ship to follow us, which had leaked out from the captain 
and mate, but we passed them by as mere "yarns," till our arrival, 
when they were confirmed by the letters which we brought from 
the owners to their agent. The ship California, belonging to the 
same firm, had been nearly two years on the coast; had collected 
a full cargo, and was now at San Diego, from which port she was 
expected to sail in a few weeks for Boston; and we were to collect 
all the hides we could, and deposit them at San Diego, when the 
new ship, which would carry forty thousand, was to be filled and 
sent home; and then we were to begin anew, and collect our own 
cargo. Here was a gloomy prospect before us, indeed. The Cali- 
fornia had been twenty months on the coast, and the Lagoda, a 
smaller ship, carrying only thirty-one or thirty-two thousand, had 
been two years getting her cargo; and we were to collect a cargo 
of forty thousand beside our own, which would be twelve or fifteen 
thousand; and hides were said to be growing scarcer. Then, too, 
this ship, which had been to us a worse phantom than any flying 
Dutchman, was no phantom, or ideal thing, but had been reduced 
to a certainty; so much so that a name was given her, and it was 
said that she was to be the Alert, a well-known India-man, which 
was expected in Boston in a few months, when we sailed. There 
could be no doubt, and all looked black enough. Hints were thrown 
out about three years and four years; — the older sailors said they 
never should see Boston again, but should lay their bones in Cali- 
fornia; and a cloud seemed to hang over the whole voyage. Besides, 
we were not provided for so long a voyage, and clothes, and all 
sailors' necessaries, were excessively dear — three or four hundred 
per cent, advance upon the Boston prices. This was bad enough 
for them; but still worse was it for me, who did not mean to be a 
sailor for life; having intended only to be gone eighteen months or 
two years. Three or four years would make me a sailor in every 
respect, mind and habits, as well as body — nolens volens; and would 
put all my companions so far ahead of me that college and a pro- 
fession would be in vain to think of; and I made up my mind that, 
feel as I might, a sailor I must be, and to be master of a vessel, 
must be the height of my ambition. 



92 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

Beside the length of the voyage, and the hard and exposed life, 
we were at the ends of the earth; on a coast almost solitary; in a 
country where there is neither law nor gospel, and where sailors are 
at their captain's mercy, there being no American consul, or any 
one to whom a complaint could be made. We lost all interest in 
the voyage; cared nothing about the cargo, which we were only 
collecting for others; began to patch our clothes; and felt as though 
we were fixed beyond all hope of change. 

In addition to, and perhaps partly as a consequence of, this state 
of things, there was trouble brewing on board the vessel. Our mate 
(as the first mate is always called, par excellence) was a worthy 
man; — a more honest, upright, and kind-hearted man I never saw; 
but he was too good for the mate of a merchantman. He was not 
the man to call a sailor a "son of a b — h," and knock him down with 
a handspike. He wanted the energy and spirit for such a voyage as 

ours, and for such a captain. Captain T was a vigorous, energetic 

fellow. As sailors say, "he hadn't a lazy bone in him." He was 
made of steel and whalebone. He was a man to "toe the mark," 
and to make every one else step up to it. During all the time that 
I was with him, I never saw him sit down on deck. He was always 
active and driving; severe in his discipline, and expected the same 
of his officers. The mate not being enough of a driver for him, and 
being perhaps too easy with the crew, he was dissatisfied with him, 
became suspicious that discipline was getting relaxed, and began to 
interfere in everything. He drew the reins taughter; and as, in 
all quarrels between officers, the sailors side with the one who treats 
them best, he became suspicious of the crew. He saw that every- 
thing went wrong — that nothing was done "with a will;" and in 
his attempt to remedy the difficulty by severity, he made every- 
thing worse. We were in every respect unfortunately situated. Cap- 
tain, officers, and crew, entirely unfitted for one another; and every 
circumstance and event was like a two-edged sword, and cut both 
ways. The length of the voyage, which made us dissatisfied, made 
the captain, at the same time, feel the necessity of order and strict 
discipline; and the nature of the country, which caused us to feel that 
we had nowhere to go for redress, but were entirely at the mercy of 
a hard master, made the captain feel, on the other hand, that he 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 93 

must depend entirely upon his own resources. Severity created dis- 
content, and signs of discontent provoked severity. Then, too, ill- 
treatment and dissatisfaction are no "linimenta laborum;" and many 
a time have I heard the sailors say that they should not mind the 
length of the voyage, and the hardships, if they wfere only kindly 
treated, and if they could feel that something was done to make 
things lighter and easier. We felt as though our situation was a 
call upon our superiors to give us occasional relaxations, and to 
make our yoke easier. But the contrary policy was pursued. We 
were kept at work all day when in port; which, together with a 
watch at night, made us glad to turn-in as soon as we got below. 
Thus we got no time for reading, or — which was of more impor- 
tance to us — for washing and mending our clothes. And then, 
when we were at sea, saiHng from port to port, instead of giving 
us "watch and watch," as was the custom on board every other 
vessel on the coast, we were all kept on deck and at work, rain or 
shine, making spun-yarn and rope, and at other work in good 
weather, and picking oakum, when it was too wet for anything 
else. All hands were called to "come up and see it rain," and kept 
on deck hour after hour in a drenching rain, standing round the 
deck so far apart as to prevent our talking with one another, with 
our tarpaulins and oil-cloth jackets on, picking old rope to pieces, 
or laying up gaskets and robands. This was often done, too, when 
we were lying in port with two anchors down, and no necessity for 
more than one man on deck as a look-out. This is what is called 
"hazing" a crew, and "working their old iron up." 

While lying at Santa Barbara, we encountered another south- 
easter; and, like the first, it came on in the night; the great black 
clouds coming round from the southward, covering the mountain, 
and hanging down over the town, appearing almost to rest upon 
the roofs of the houses. We made sail, slipped our cable, cleared 
the point, and beat about, for four days, in the ofHng, under close 
sail, with continual rain and high seas and winds. No wonder, 
thought we, they have no rain in the other seasons, for enough 
seemed to have fallen in those four days to last through a common 
summer. On the fifth day it cleared up, after a few hours, as is 
usual, of rain coming down like a four hours' shower-bath, and 



94 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

we found ourselves drifted nearly ten leagues from the anchorage; 
and having light head winds, we did not return until the sixth 
day. Having recovered our anchor, we made preparations for getting 
under weigh to go down to leeward. We had hoped to go directly 
to San Diego, and thus fall in with the Cahfornia before she sailed 
for Boston; but our orders were to stop at an intermediate port 
called San Pedro, and as we were to lie there a week or two, and 
the California was to sail in a few days, we lost the opportunity. 
Just before sailing, the captain took on board a short, red-haired, 
round-shouldered, vulgar-looking fellow, who had lost one eye, 
and squinted with the other, and introducing him as Mr. Russell, 
told us that he was an officer on board. This was too bad. We had 
lost overboard, on the passage, one of the best of our number, 
another had been taken from us and appointed clerk, and 
thus weakened and reduced, instead of shipping some hands to 
make our work easier, he had put another officer over us, to watch 
and drive us. We had now four officers, and only six in the fore- 
castle. This was bringing her too much down by the stern for 
our comfort. 

Leaving Santa Barbara, we coasted along down, the country 
appearing level or moderately uneven, and, for the most part, sandy 
and treeless; until, doubling a high, sandy point, we let go our 
anchor at a distance of three or three and a half miles from shore. 
It was like a vessel, bound to Halifax, coming to anchor on the 
Grand Banks; for the shore being low, appeared to be at a greater 
distance than it actually was, and we thought we might as well 
have staid at Santa Barbara, and sent our boat down for the hides. 
The land was of a clayey consistency, and, as far as the eye could 
reach, entirely bare of trees and even shrubs; and there was no 
sign of a town, — not even a house to be seen. What brought us 
into such a place, we could not conceive. No sooner had we come 
to anchor, than the slip-rope, and the other preparations for south- 
easters, were got ready; and there was reason enough for it, for we 
lay exposed to every wind that could blow, except the north-west, 
and that came over a flat country with a range of more than a 
league of water. As soon as everything was snug on board, the 
boat was lowered, and we pulled ashore, our new officer, who had 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 95 

been several times in the port before, taking the place of steersman. 
As we drew in, we found the tide low, and the rocks and stones, 
covered with kelp and sea-weed, lying bare for the distance of nearly 
an eighth of a mile. Picking our way barefooted over these, we 
came to what is called the landing-place, at high-water mark. The 
soil was as it appeared at first, loose and clayey, and except the 
stalks of the mustard plant, there was no vegetation. Just in front 
of the landing, and immediately over it, was a small hill, which, 
from its being not more than thirty or forty feet high, we had not 
perceived from our anchorage. Over this hill we saw three men 
coming down, dressed partly like sailors and partly Uke Califor- 
nians; one of them having on a pair of untanned leather trowsers 
and a red baize shirt. When they came down to us, we found that 
they were Englishmen, and they told us that they had belonged to a 
small Mexican brig which had been driven ashore here in a south- 
easter, and now lived in a small house just over the hill. Going up 
this hill with them, we saw, just behind it, a small, low building, 
with one room, containing a fire-place, cooking apparatus, etc., and 
the rest of it unfinished, and used as a place to store hides and 
goods. This, they told us, was built by some traders in the Pueblo, 
(a town about thirty miles in the interior, to which this was the 
port,) and used by them as a storehouse, and also as a lodging place 
when they came down to trade with the vessels. These three men 
were employed by them to keep the house in order, and to look out 
for the things stored in it. They said that they had been there 
nearly a year; had nothing to do most of the time, living upon beef, 
hard bread, and frijoles (a peculiar kind of bean very abundant in 
California). The nearest house, they told us, was a Rancho, or 
cattle-farm, about three miles off; and one of them went up, at 
the request of our officer, to order a horse to be sent down, with 
which the agent, who was on board, might go up to the Pueblo. 
From one of them, who was an intelligent English sailor, I learned 
a good deal, in a few minutes' conversation, about the place, its 
trade, and the news from the southern ports. San Diego, he said, 
was about eighty miles to the leeward of San Pedro; that they had 
heard from there, by a Mexican who came up on horseback, that 
the California had sailed for Boston, and that the Lagoda, which 



96 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

had been in San Pedro only a few weeks before, was taking in her 
cargo for Boston. The Ayacucho was also there, loading for Callao, 
and the little Loriotte, which had run directly down from Monterey, 
where we left her. San Diego, he told me, was a small, snug place, 
having very little trade, but decidedly the best harbor on the coast, 
being completely land-locked, and the water as smooth as a duck- 
pond. This was the depot for all the vessels engaged in the trade; 
each one having a large house there, built of rough boards, in which 
they stowed their hides, as fast as they collected them in their trips 
up and down the coast, and when they had procured a full cargo, 
sp)ent a few weeks there, taking it in, smoking ship, supplying 
wood and water, and making other preparations for the voyage 
home. The Lagoda was now about this business. When we should 
be about it, was more than I could tell; two years, at least, I thought 
to myself. 

I also learned, to my surprise, that the desolate-looking place we 
were in was the best place on the whole coast for hides. It was the 
only port for a distance of eighty miles, and about thirty miles in 
the interior was a fine plane country, filled with herds of cattle, in 
the centre of which was the Pueblo de les Angelos — the largest 
town in California — and several of the wealthiest missions; to all 
of which San Pedro was the sea-port. 

Having made our arrangements for a horse to take the agent to 
the Pueblo the next day, we picked our way again over the green, 
slippery rocks, and pulled aboard. By the time we reached the 
vessel, which was so far off that we could hardly see her, in the 
increasing darkness, the boats were hoisted up, and the crew at 
supper. Going down into the forecastle, eating our supper, and 
lighting our cigars and pipes, we had, as usual, to tell all we had 
seen or heard ashore. We all agreed that it was the worst place 
we had seen yet, especially for getting off hides, and our lying off 
at so great a distance looked as though it was bad for south-easters. 
After a few disputes as to whether we should have to carry our 
goods up the hill, or not, we talked of San Diego, the probability 
of seeing the Lagoda before she sailed, etc., etc. 

The next day we pulled the agent ashore, and he went up to 
visit the Pueblo and the neighboring missions; and in a few days, 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 97 

as the result of his labors, large ox-carts, and droves of mules, 
loaded with hides, were seen coming over the flat country. We 
loaded our long-boat with goods of all kinds, light and heavy, and 
pulled ashore. After landing and rolling them over the stones upon 
the beach, we stopped, waiting for the carts to come down the hill 
and take them; but the captain soon settled the matter by ordering 
us to carry them all up to the top, saying that, that was "California 
fashion." ■ So what the oxen would not do, we were obliged to do. 
The hill was low, but steep, and the earth, being clayey and wet 
with the recent rains, was but bad holding-ground for our feet. 
The heavy barrels and casks we rolled up with some difficulty, 
getting behind and putting our shoulders to them; now and then 
our feet slipping, added to the danger of the casks rolling back 
upon us. But the greatest trouble was with the large boxes of 
sugar. These, we had to place upon oars, and lifting them up rest 
the oars upon our shoulders, and creep slowly up the hill with the 
gait of a funeral procession. After an hour or two of hard work, 
we got them all up, and found the carts standing full of hides, 
which we had to unload, and also to load again with our own 
goods; the lazy Indians, who came down with them, squatting down 
on their hams, looking on, doing nothing, and when we asked 
them to help us, only shaking their heads, or drawling out "no 
quiero." 

Having loaded the carts, we started up the Indians, who went 
off, one on each side of the oxen, with long sticks, sharpened at 
the end, to punch them with. This is one of the means of saving 
labor in California; — two Indians to two oxen. Now, the hides 
were to be got down; and for this purpose, we brought the boat 
round to a place where the hill was steeper, and threw them down, 
letting them slide over the slope. Many of them lodged, and we 
had to let ourselves down and set them agoing again; and in this 
way got covered with dust, and our clothes torn. After we had got 
them all down, we were obliged to take them on our heads, and 
walk over the stones, and through the water, to the boat. The 
water and the stones together would wear out a pair of shoes a 
day, and as shoes were very scarce and very dear, we were com- 
pelled to go barefooted. At night, we went on board, having had 



98 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

the hardest and most disagreeable day's work that we had yet 
experienced. For several days, we were employed in this manner, 
until we had landed forty or fifty tons of goods, and brought on 
board about two thousand hides; when the trade began to slacken, 
and we were kept at work, on board, during the latter part of the 
week, either in the hold or upon the rigging. On Thursday night, 
there was a violent blow from the northward, but as this was off- 
shore, we had only to let go our other anchor and hold on. We were 
called up at night to send down the royal-yards. It was as dark 
as a pocket, and the vessel pitching at her anchors. I went up to 

the fore, and my friend S , to the main, and we soon had them 

down "ship-shape and Bristol fashion;" for, as we had now got 
used to our duty aloft, everything above the cross-trees was left to 
us, who were the youngest of the crew, except one boy. 



CHAPTER XV 

A Flogging — A Night on Shore — The State of Things on Board — 

San Diego 

FOR several days the captain seemed very much out of humor. 
Nothing went right, or fast enough for him. He quarrelled 
with the cook, and threatened to flog him for throwing wood 
on deck; and had a dispute with the mate about reeving a Spanish 
burton; the mate saying that he was right, and had been taught how 
to do it by a man who was a sailor! This, the captain took in 
dudgeon, and they were at sword's points at once. But his dis- 
pleasure was chiefly turned against a large, heavy-moulded fellow 
from the Middle States, who was called Sam. This man hesitated 
in his speech, and was rather slow in his motions, but was a pretty 
good sailor, and always seemed to do his best; but the captain 
took a dislike to him, thought he was surly, and lazy; and "if you 
once give a dog a bad name" — as the sailor-phrase is — "he may as 
well jump overboard." The captain found fault with everything 
this man did, and hazed him for dropping a marUne-spike from 
the main-yard, where he was at work. This, of course, was an 
accident, but it was set down against him. The captain was on 
board all day Friday, and everything went on hard and disagreeably, 
"The more you drive a man, the less he will do," was as true with 
us as with any other people. We worked late Friday night, and 
were turned-to early Saturday morning. About ten o'clock the 
captain ordered our new officer, Russell, who by this time had 
become thoroughly disliked by all the crew, to get the gig ready 
to take him ashore. John, the Swede, was sitting in the boat along- 
side, and Russell and myself were standing by the main hatchway, 
waiting for the captain, who was down in the hold, where the 
crew were at work, when we heard his voice raised in violent dispute 
with somebody, whether it was with the mate, or one of the crew, 
I could not tell; and then came blows and scuffling. I ran to the 

99 



100 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

side and beckoned to John, who came up, and we leaned down 
the hatchway; and though we could see no one, yet we knew that 
the captain had the advantage, for his voice was loud and clear — 

"You see your condition! You see your condition! Will you ever 
give me any more of your jaw?" No answer; and then came 
wrestling and heaving, as though the man was trying to turn him. 
"You may as well keep still, for I have got you," said the captain. 
Then came the question, "Will you ever give me any more of 
your jaw?" 

"I never gave you any, sir," said Sam; for it was his voice that 
we heard, though low and half choked. 

"That's not what I ask you. Will you ever be impudent to me 
again?" 

"I never have been, sir," said Sam. 

"Answer my question, or I'll make a spread eagle of you! I'll 
flog you, by G — d." 

"I'm no negro slave," said Sam. 

"Then I'll make you one," said the captain; and he came to the 
hatchway, and sprang on deck, threw off his coat, and rolling up 

his sleeves, called out to the mate — "Seize that man up, Mr. A 1 

Seize him up! Make a spread eagle of him! I'll teach you all who 
is master aboard!" 

The crew and officers followed the captain up the hatchway, 
and after repeated orders the mate laid hold of Sam, who made no 
resistance, and carried him to the gangway. 

"What are you going to flog that man for, sir?" said John, the 
Swede, to the captain. 

Upon hearing this, the captain turned upon him, but knowing 
him to be quick and resolute, he ordered the steward to bring the 
irons, and calling upon Russell to help him, went up to John. 

"Let me alone," said John. "I'm willing to be put in irons. You 
need not use any force;" and putting out his hands, the captain 
slipped the irons on, and sent him aft to the quarter-deck. Sam by 
this time was seized up, as it is called, that is, placed against the 
shrouds, with his wrists made fast to the shrouds, his jacket off, 
and his back exposed. The captain stood on the break of the deck, 
a few feet from him, and a Httle raised, so as to have a good swing 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST lOI 

at him, and held in his hand the bight of a thick, strong rope. The 
officers stood round, and the crew grouped together in the waist. 
All these preparations made me feel sick and almost faint, angry 
and excited as I was. A man — a human being, made in God's like- 
ness — fastened up and flogged like a beast! A man, too, whom I 
had lived with and eaten with for months, and knew almost as 
well as a brother. The first and almost uncontrollable impulse was 
resistance. But what was to be done ? The time for it had gone by. 
The two best men were fast, and there were only two beside myself, 
and a small boy of ten or twelve years of age. And then there were 
(beside the captain) three officers, steward, agent and clerk. But 
beside the numbers, what is there for sailors to do? If they resist, 
it is mutiny; and if they succeed, and take the vessel, it is piracy. 
If they ever yield again, their punishment must come; and if they 
do not yield, they are pirates for life. If a sailor resist his com- 
mander, he resists the law, and piracy or submission are his only 
alternatives. Bad as it was, it must be borne. It is what a sailor ships 
for. Swinging the rope over his head, and bending his body so as 
to give it full force, the captain brought it down upon the poor 
fellow's back. Once, twice, — six times. "Will you ever give me any 
more of your jaw?" The man writhed with pain, but said not a 
word. Three times more. This was too much, and he muttered 
something which I could not hear; this brought as many more as the 
man could stand; when the captain ordered him to be cut down, 
and to go forward. 

"Now for you," said the captain, making up to John and taking 
his irons off. As soon as he was loose, he ran forward to the fore- 
castle. "Bring that man aft," shouted the captain. The second mate, 
who had been a shipmate of John's, stood still in the waist, and 
the mate walked slowly forward; but our third officer, anxious to 
show his zeal, sprang forward over the windlass, and laid hold of 
John; but he soon threw him from him. At this moment I would 
have given worlds for the power to help the poor fellow; but it 
was all in vain. The captain stood on the quarter-deck, bare-headed, 
his eyes flashing with rage, and his face as red as blood, swinging 
the rope, and calling out to his officers, "Drag him aft! — Lay hold 
of him! I'll sweeten him!" etc., etc. The mate now went forward 



102 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

and told John quietly to go aft; and he, seeing resistance in vain, 
threw the blackguard third mate from him; said he would go aft 
of himself; that they should not drag him; and went up to the 
gangway and held out his hands; but as soon as the captain began 
to make him fast, the indignity was too much, and he began to 
resist; but the mate and Russell holding him, he was soon seized 
up. When he was made fast, he turned to the captain, who stood 
turning up his sleeves and getting ready for the blow, and asked 
him what he was to be flogged for. "Have I ever refused my duty, 
sir.? Have you ever known me to hang back, or to be insolent, or 
not to know my work?" 

"No," said the captain, "it is not that that I flog you for; I flog 
you for your interference — ^for asking questions." 

"Can't a man ask a question here without being flogged?" 

"No," shouted the captain; "nobody shall open his mouth aboard 
this vessel, but myself;" and began laying the blows upon his back, 
swinging half round between each blow, to give it full effect. As 
he went on, his passion increased, and he danced about the deck, 
calling out as he swung the rope, — "If you want to know what I 
flog you for, I'll tell you. It's because I like to do it! — because I 
like to do it! — It suits me! That's what I do it for!" 

The man writhed under the pain, until he could endure it no 
longer, when he called out, with an exclamation more common 
among foreigners than with us — "Oh, Jesus Christ! Oh, Jesus 
Christ!" 

"Don't call on Jesus Christ," shouted the captain; "he can't help 

you. Call on Captain T , he's the man! He can help you! Jesus 

Christ can't help you now!" 

At these words, which I never shall forget, my blood ran cold. I 
could look on no longer. Disgusted, sick, and horror-struck, I 
turned away and leaned over the rail, and looked down into the 
water. A few rapid thoughts of my own situation, and of the 
prospect of future revenge, crossed my mind; but the falling of the 
blows and the cries of the man called me back at once. At length 
they ceased, and turning round, I found that the mate, at a signal 
from the captain had cut him down. Almost doubled up with pain, 
the man walked slowly forward, and went down into the forecastle. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I03 

Every one else stood still at his post, while the captain, swelling with 
rage and with the importance of his achievement, walked the 
quarter-deck, and at each turn, as he came forward, calling out to 
us, — "You see your condition! You see where I've got you all, and 
you know what to expect!" — "You've been mistaken in me — you 
didn't know what I was! Now you know what I am!" — "I'll make 
you toe the mark, every soul of you, or I'll flog you all, fore and aft, 
from the boy, up!" — "You've got a driver over you! Yes, a slave- 
driver — a negro-driver! I'll see who'll tell me he isn't a negro slave!" 
With this and the like matter, equally calculated to quiet us, and to 
allay any apprehensions of future trouble, he entertained us for 
about ten minutes, when he went below. Soon after, John came aft, 
with his bare back covered with stripes and wales in every direction, 
and dreadfully swollen, and asked the steward to ask the captain to 
let him have some salve, or balsam, to put upon it. "No," said 
the captain, who heard him from below; "tell him to put his shirt 
on; that's the best thing for him; and pull me ashore in the boat. 
Nobody is going to lay-up on board this vessel." He then called to 
Mr. Russell to take those men and two others in the boat, and pull 
him ashore. I went for one. The two men could hardly bend their 
backs, and the captain called to them to "give way," "give way!" but 
finding they did their best, he let them alone. The agent was in 
the stern sheets, but during the whole pull — a league or more — not 
a word was spoken. We landed; the captain, agent, and officer went 
up to the house, and left us with the boat. I, and the man with me, 
staid near the boat, while John and Sam walked slowly away, and sat 
down on the rocks. They talked some time together, but at length 
separated, each sitting alone. I had some fears of John. He was a 
foreigner, and violently tempered, and under suffering; and he had 
his knife with him, and the captain was to come down alone to the 
boat. But nothing happened; and we went quietly on board. The 
captain was probably armed, and if either of them had lifted a hand 
against him, they would have had nothing before them but flight, and 
starvation in the woods of California, or capture by the soldiers 
and Indian blood-hounds, whom the offer of twenty dollars would 
have set upon them. 
After the day's work was done, we went down into the forecastle, 



104 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

and ate our plain supper; but not a word was spoken. It was 
Saturday night; but there was no song — no "sweethearts and wives." 
A gloom was over everything. The two men lay in their berths, 
groaning with pain, and we all turned in, but for myself, not to 
sleep. A sound coming now and then from the berths of the two 
men showed that they were awake, as awake they must have been, 
for they could hardly lie in one posture a moment; the dim, swing- 
ing lamp of the forecastle shed its light over the dark hole in which 
we lived; and many and various reflections and purposes coursed 
through my mind. I thought of our situation, living under a 
tyranny; of the character of the country we were in; of the length 
of the voyage, and of the uncertainty attending our return to 
America; and then, if we should return, of the prospect of obtaining 
justice and satisfaction for these poor men; and vowed that if God 
should ever give me the means, I would do something to redress 
the grievances and relieve the sufferings of that poor class of beings, 
of whom I then was one. 

The next day was Sunday. We worked as usual, washing decks, 
etc., until breakfast-time. After breakfast, we pulled the captain 
ashore, and finding some hides there which had been brought 
down the night before, he ordered me to stay ashore and watch 
them, saying that the boat would come again before night. They 
left me, and I spent a quiet day on the hill, eating dinner with the 
three men at the little house. Unfortunately, they had no books, 
and after talking with them and walking about, I began to grow 
tired of doing nothing. The little brig, the home of so much hard- 
ship and suffering, lay in the offing, almost as far as one could see; 
and the only other thing which broke the surface of the great bay 
was a small, desolate-looking island, steep and conical, of a clayey 
soil, and without the sign of vegetable life upon it; yet which had a 
peculiar and melancholy interest to me, for on the top of it were 
buried the remains of an Englishman, the commander of a small 
merchant brig, who died while lying in this port. It was always a 
solemn and interesting spot to me. There it stood, desolate, and in 
the midst of desolation; and there were the remains of one who died 
and was buried alone and friendless. Had it been a common 
burying-place, it would have been nothing. The single body cor- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST IO5 

responded well with the solitary character of everything around. It 
was the only thing in California from which I could ever extract 
anything like poetry. Then, too, the man died far from home; 
without a friend near him; by poison, it was suspected, and no 
one to inquire into it; and without proper funeral rites; the mate, 
(as I was told,) glad to have him out of the way, hurrying him up 
the hill and into the ground, without a word or a prayer. 

I looked anxiously for a boat, during the latter part of the after- 
noon, but none came; until toward sundown, when I saw a speck 
on the water, and as it drew near, I found it was the gig, with the 
captain. The hides, then, were not to go off. The captain came up 
the hill, with a man, bringing my monkey jacket and a blanket. 
He looked pretty black, but inquired whether I had enough to eat; 
told me to make a house out of the hides, and keep myself warm, 
as I should have to sleep there among them, and to keep good watch 
over them. I got a moment to speak to the man who brought my 
jacket. 
"How do things go aboard?" said I. 

"Bad enough," said he; "hard work and not a kind word spoken." 
"What," said I, "have you been at work all day?" 
"Yes! no more Sunday for us. Everything has been moved in the 
hold, from stem to stern, and from the waterways to the keelson." 
I went up to the house to supper. We had frijoles, (the perpetual 
food of the Californians, but which, when well cooked, are the best 
bean in the world,) coffee made of burnt wheat, and hard bread. 
After our meal, the three men sat down by the light of a tallow 
candle, with a pack of greasy Spanish cards, to the favorite game of 
"treinta uno," a sort of Spanish "everlasting." I left them and went 
out to take up my bivouack among the hides. It was now dark; the 
vessel was hidden from sight, and except the three men in the house, 
there was not a living soul within a league. The coati (a wild 
animal of a nature and appearance between that of the fox and the 
wolf) set up their sharp, quick bark, and two owls, at the end of 
two distant points running out into the bay, on different sides of 
the hills where I lay, kept up their alternate, dismal notes. I had 
heard the sound before at night, but did not know what it was, 
until one of the men, who came down to look at my quarters, told 



I06 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

me it was the owl. Mellowed by the distance, and heard alone, at 
night, I thought it was the most melancholy, boding sound I had 
ever heard. Through nearly all the night they kept it up, answering 
one another slowly, at regular intervals. This was relieved by the 
noisy coati, some of which came quite near to my quarters, and 
were not very pleasant neighbors. The next morning, before sun- 
rise, the long-boat came ashore, and the hides were taken off. 

We lay at San Pedro about a week, engaged in taking off hides 
and in other labors, which had now become our regular duties. I 
spent one more day on the hill, watching a quantity of hides and 
goods, and this time succeeded in finding a part of a volume of 
Scott's Pirate, in a corner of the house; but it failed me at a most 
interesting moment, and I betook myself to my acquaintances on 
shore, and from them learned a good deal about the customs of the 
country, the harbors, etc. This, they told me, was a worse harbor 
than Santa Barbara, for south-easters; the bearing of the headland 
being a point and a half more to windward, and it being so shallow 
that the sea broke often as far out as where we lay at anchor. The 
gale from which we slipped at Santa Barbara, had been so bad a 
one here, that the whole bay, for a league out, was filled with the 
foam of the breakers, and seas actually broke over the Dead Man's 
island. The Lagoda was lying there, and slipped at the first alarm, 
and in such haste that she was obliged to leave her launch behind her 
at anchor. The little boat rode it out for several hours, pitching at 
her anchor, and standing with her stern up almost perpendicularly. 
The men told me that they watched her till towards night, when 
she snapped her cable and drove up over the breakers, high and 
dry upon the beach. 

On board the Pilgrim, everything went on regularly, each one 
trying to get along as smoothly as possible; but the comfort of the 
voyage was evidently at an end. "That is a long lane which has 
no turning" — ^"Every dog must have his day, and mine will come 
by-and-by" — and the like proverbs, were occasionally quoted; but 
no one spoke of any probable end to the voyage, or of Boston, or 
anything of the kind; or if he did, it was only to draw out the 
perpetual, surly reply from his shipmate — "Boston, is it? You may 
thank your stars if you ever see that place. You had better have 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I07 

your back sheathed, and your head coppered, and your feet shod, 
and make out your log for California for life!" or else something of 
this kind — "Before you get to Boston the hides will wear the hair 
off your head, and you'll take up all your wages in clothes, and 
won't have enough left to buy a wig with!" 

The flogging was seldom if ever alluded to by us, in the forecastle. 
If any one was inclined to talk about it, the others, with a delicacy 
which I hardly expected to find among them, always stopped him, 
or turned the subject. But the behavior of the two men who were 
flogged toward one another showed a delicacy and a sense of honor, 
which would have been worthy of admiration in the highest walks 
of life. Sam knew that the other had suffered solely on his account, 
and in all his complaints, he said that if he alone had been flogged, 
it would have been nothing; but that he never could see that man 
without thinking what had been the means of bringing that dis- 
grace upon him; and John never, by word or deed, let anything 
escape him to remind the other that it was by interfering to save 
his shipmate, that he had suffered. 

Having got all our spare room filled with hides, we hove up our 
anchor and made sail for San Diego. In no operation can the dis- 
position of a crew be discovered better than in getting under weigh. 
Where things are "done with a will," every one is like a cat aloft: 
sails are loosed in an instant; each one lays out his strength on his 
handspike, and the windlass goes briskly round with the loud cry 
of "Yo heave ho! Heave and pawl! Heave hearty ho!" But with 
us, at this time, it was all dragging work. No one went aloft beyond 
his ordinary gait, and the chain came slowly in over the windlass. 
The mate, between the knight-heads, exhausted all his official 
rhetoric, in calls of "Heave with a will!" — "Heave hearty, men! — 
heave hearty!" — "Heave and raise the dead!" — "Heave, and away!" 
etc., etc.; but it would not do. Nobody broke his back or his hand- 
spike by his efforts. And when the cat-tackle-fall was strung along, 
and all hands — cook, steward, and all — laid hold, to cat the anchor, 
instead of the lively song of "Cheerily, men!" in which all hands 
join in the chorus, we pulled a long, heavy, silent pull, and — as 
sailors say a song is as good as ten men — the anchor came to the 
cat-head pretty slowly. "Give us 'Cheerily!'" said the mate; but 



I08 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

there was no "cheerily" for us, and we did without it. The captain 
walked the quarterdeck, and said not a word. He must have seen 
the change, but there was nothing which he could notice officially. 
We sailed leisurely down the coast before a light fair wind, 
keeping the land well aboard, and saw two other missions, looking 
like blocks of white plaster, shining in the distance; one of which, 
situated on the top of a high hill, was San Juan Campestrano, under 
which vessels sometimes come to anchor, in the summer season, 
and take off hides. The most distant one was St. Louis Rey, which 
the third mate said was only fifteen miles from San Diego. At 
sunset on the second day, we had a large and well wooded head- 
land directly before us, behind which lay the little harbor of San 
Diego. We were becalmed off this point all night, but the next 
morning, which was Saturday, the 14th of March, having a good 
breeze, we stood round the point, and hauling our wind, brought 
the little harbor, which is rather the outlet of a small river, right 
before us. Every one was anxious to get a view of the new place. A 
chain of high hills, beginning at the point, (which was on our 
larboard hand, coming in,) protected the harbor on the north and 
west, and ran off into the interior as far as the eye could reach. On 
the other sides, the land was low, and green, but without trees. The 
entrance is so narrow as to admit but one vessel at a time, the 
current swift, and the channel runs so near to a low stony point 
that the ship's sides appeared almost to touch it. There was no town 
in sight, but on the smooth sand beach, abreast, and within a cable's 
length of which three vessels lay moored, were four large houses, 
built of rough boards, and looking like the great barns in which 
ice is stored on the borders of the large ponds near Boston; with 
piles of hides standing round them, and men in red shirts and 
large straw hats, walking in and out of the doors. These were the 
hide-houses. Of the vessels: one, a short, clumsy, little hermaphrodite 
brig, we recognized as our old acquaintance, the Loriotte; another, 
with sharp bows and raking masts, newly painted and tarred, and 
glittering in the morning sun, with the blood-red banner and cross 
of St. George at her peak, was the handsome Ayacucho. The third 
was a large ship, with top-gallant-masts housed, and sails unbent, 
and looking as rusty and worn as two years' "hide-droghing" could 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST IO9 

make her. This was the Lagoda. As we drew near, carried rapidly 
along by the current, we overhauled our chain, and clewed up the 
topsails. "Let go the anchor!" said the captain but either there was 
not chain enough forward of the windlass, or the anchor went down 
foul, or we had too much headway on, for it did not bring us up. 
"Pay out chain!" shouted the captain; and we gave it to her; but 
it would not do. Before the other anchor could be let go, we drifted 
down, broadside on, and went smash into the Lagoda. Her crew 
were at breakfast in the forecastle, and the cook, seeing us coming, 
rushed out of his galley, and called up the officers and men. 

Fortunately no great harm was done. Her jib-boom ran between 
our fore and main masts, carrying away some of our rigging, and 
breaking down the rail. She lost her martingale. This brought us 
up, and as they paid out chain, we swung clear of them, and let go 
the other anchor; but this had as bad luck as the first, for, before any 
one perceived it, we were drifting on to the Loriotte. The captain 
now gave out his orders rapidly and fiercely, sheeting home the top- 
sails, and backing and filling the sails, in hope of starting or clearing 
the anchors; but it was all in vain, and he sat down on the rail, 
taking it very leisurely, and calling out to Captain Nye, that he was 
coming to pay him a visit. We drifted fairly into the Loriotte, her 
larboard bow into our starboard quarter, carrying away a part of our 
starboard quarter railing, and breaking off her larboard bumpkin, 
and one or two stanchions above the deck. We saw our handsome 
sailor, Jackson, on the forecastle, with the Sandwich Islanders, 
working away to get us clear. After paying out chain, we swung 
clear, but our anchors were no doubt afoul of hers. We manned 
the windlass, and hove, and hove away, but to no purpose. Some- 
times we got a little upon the cable, but a good surge would take 
it all back again. We now began to drift down toward the Ayacucho, 
when her boat put off and brought her commander. Captain Wilson, 
on board. He was a short, active, well-built man, between fifty 
and sixty years of age; and being nearly twenty years older than 
our captain, and a thorough seaman, he did not hesitate to give his 
advice, and from giving advice, he gradually came to taking the 
command; ordering us when to heave and when to pawl, and 
backing and filling the topsails, setting and taking in jib and trysail, 



no RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

whenever he thought best. Our captain gave a few orders, but as 
Wilson generally countermanded them, saying, in an easy, fatherly 

kind of way, "Oh no! Captain T , you don't want the jib on 

her," or "it isn't time yet to heave!" he soon gave it up. We had no 
objections to this state of things, for Wilson was a kind old man, 
and had an encouraging and pleasant way of speaking to us, which 
made everything go easily. After two or three hours of constant 
labor at the windlass, heaving and "Yo ho!"-ing with all our might, 
we brought up an anchor, with the Loriotte's small bower fast to it. 
Having cleared this and let it go, and cleared our hawse, we soon 
got our other anchor, which had dragged half over the harbor. 
"Now," said Wilson, "I'll find you a good berth;" and setting both 
the topsails, he carried us down, and brought us to anchor, in hand- 
some style, directly abreast of the hide-house which we were to 
use. Having done this, he took his leave, while we furled the sails, 
and got our breakfast, which was welcome to us, for we had worked 
hard, and it was nearly twelve o'clock. After breakfast, and until 
night, we were employed in getting out the boats and mooring ship. 
After supper, two of us took the captain on board the Lagoda. 
As he came alongside, he gave his name, and the mate, in the 
gangway, called out to the captain down the companion-way — 

"Captain T has come aboard, sir!" "Has he brought his brig 

with him?" said the rough old fellow, in a tone which made itself 
heard fore and aft. This mortified our captain a little, and it became 
a standing joke among us for the rest of the voyage. The captain 
went down into the cabin, and we walked forward and put our 
heads down the forecasde, where we found the men at supper. 
"Come down, shipmates! Come down!" said they, as soon as they 
saw us; and we went down, and found a large, high forecastle, well 
lighted; and a crew of twelve or fourteen men, eating out of their 
kids and pans, and drinking their tea, and talking and laughing, all 
as independent and easy as so many "wood-sawyer's clerks." This 
looked like comfort and enjoyment, compared with the dark little 
forecastle, and scanty, discontented crew of the brig. It was Satur- 
day night; they had got through with their work for the week; 
and being snugly moored, had nothing to do until Monday, again. 
After two years' hard service, they had seen the worst, and all, of 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST III 

California; — had got their cargo nearly stowed, and expected to 
sail in a week or two, for Boston. We spent an hour or more with 
them, talking over California matters, until the word was passed — 
"Pilgrims, away!" and we went back with our captain. They were 
a hardy, but intelligent crew; a little roughened, and their clothes 
patched and old, from California wear; all able seamen, and be- 
tween the ages of twenty and thirty-five. They inquired about our 
vessel, the usage, etc., and were not a little surprised at the story 
of the flogging. They said there were often difficulties in vessels 
on the coast, and sometimes knock-downs and fightings, but they 
had never heard before of a regular seizing-up and flogging. 
"Spread-eagles" were a new kind of bird in Cahfornia. 

Sunday, they said, was always given in San Diego, both at the 
hide-houses and on board the vessels, a large number usually going 
up to the town, on liberty. We learned a good deal from them 
about curing and stowing of hides, etc., and they were anxious to 
have the latest news (seven months old) from Boston. One of 
their first inquiries was for Father Taylor, the seamen's preacher 
in Boston. Then followed the usual strain of conversation, in- 
quiries, stories, and jokes, which, one must always hear in a ship's 
forecastle, but which are perhaps, after all, no worse, nor, indeed, 
more gross, than that of many well-dressed gentlemen at their clubs. 



CHAPTER XVI 
Liberty-day on Shore 

THE next day being Sunday, after washing and clearing 
decks, and getting breakfast, the mate came forward with 
leave for one watch to go ashore, on Hberty. We drew lots, 
and it fell to the larboard, which I was in. Instantly all was 
preparation. Buckets of fresh water, (which we were allowed in 
port,) and soap, were put in use; go-ashore jackets and trowsers 
got out and brushed; pumps, neckerchiefs, and hats overhauled; 
one lending to another; so that among the whole each one got a 
good fit-out. A boat was called to pull the "liberty men" ashore, 
and we sat down in the stern sheets, "as big as pay passengers," 
and jumping ashore, set out on our walk for the town, which was 
nearly three miles off. 

It is a pity that some other arrangement is not made in merchant 
vessels, with regard to the liberty-day. When in port, the crews 
are kept at work all the week, and the only day they are allowed 
for rest or pleasure is the Sabbath; and unless they go ashore on 
that day, they cannot go at all. I have heard of a religious captain 
who gave his crew liberty on Saturdays, after twelve o'clock. This 
would be a good plan, if shipmasters would bring themselves to 
give their crews so much time. For young sailors especially, many 
of whom have been brought up with a regard for the sacredness of 
the day, this strong temptation to break it, is exceedingly injurious. 
As it is, it can hardly be expected that a crew, on a long and hard 
voyage, will refuse a few hours of freedom from toil and the re- 
straints of a vessel, and an opportunity to tread the ground and 
see the sights of society and humanity, because it is on a Sunday. 
It is too much like escaping from prison, or being drawn out of a 
pit, on the Sabbath day. 

I shall never forget the delightful sensation of being in the open 
air, with the birds singing around me, and escaped from the 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST II3 

confinement, labor, and strict rule of a vessel — of being once more 
in my life, though only for a day, my own master. A sailor's 
liberty is but for a day; yet while it lasts it is perfect. He is under 
no one's eye, and can do whatever, and go wherever, he pleases. 
This day, for the first time, I may truly say, in my whole life, I felt 
the meaning of a term which I had often heard — the sweets of 

liberty. My friend S was with me, and turning our backs upon 

the vessels, we walked slowly along, talking of the pleasure of 
being our own masters, of the times past, and when we were free 
in the midst of friends, in America, and of the prospect of our 
return; and planning where we would go, and what we would do, 
when we reached home. It was wonderful how the prospect 
brightened, and how short and tolerable the voyage appeared, when 
viewed in this new light. Things looked differently from what they 
did when we talked them over in the little dark forecastle, the 
night after the flogging at San Pedro. It is not the least of the 
advantages of allowing sailors occasionally a day of liberty, that it 
gives them a spring, and makes them feel cheerful and independent, 
and leads them insensibly to look on the bright side of everything 
for some time after. 

S and myself determined to keep as much together as pos- 
sible, though we knew that it would not do to cut our shipmates; 
for, knowing our birth and education, they were a little suspicious 
that we would try to put on the gentleman when we got ashore, 
and would be ashamed of their company; and this won't do with 
Jack. When the voyage is at an end, you may do as you please, 
but so long as you belong to the same vessel, you must be a ship- 
mate to him on shore, or he will not be a shipmate to you on 
board. Being forewarned of this before I went to sea, I took no 
"long togs" with me, and being dressed like the rest, in white duck 
trowsers, blue jacket and straw hat, which would prevent my 
going in better company, and showing no disposition to avoid 
them, I set all suspicion at rest. Our crew fell in with some who 
belonged to the other vessels, and, sailor-like, steered for the first 
grog-shop. This was a small mud building, of only one room, in 
which were liquors, dry and West India goods, shoes, bread, fruits, 
and everything which is vendible in California. It was kept by a 



114 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

Yankee, a one-eyed man, who belonged formerly to Fall River, 
came out to the Pacific in a whale-ship, left her at the Sandwich 

Islands, and came to California and set up a "Pulperia." S and 

I followed in our shipmates' wake, knowing that to refuse to drink 
with them would be the highest affront, but determining to slip 
away at the first opportunity. It is the universal custom with sailors 
for each one, in his turn, to treat the whole, calling for a glass all 
round, and obliging every one who is present, even the keeper of 
the shop, to take a glass with him. When we first came in, there 
was some dispute between our crew and the others, whether the 
new comers or the old California rangers should treat first; but it 
being settled in favor of the latter, each of the crews of the other 
vessels treated all round in their turn, and as there were a good 
many present, (including some "loafers" who had dropped in, 
knowing what was going on, to take advantage of Jack's hospitality,) 
and the liquor was a real (iiVz cents) a glass, it made somewhat 

of a hole in their lockers. It was now our ship's turn, and S 

and I, anxious to get away, stepped up to call for glasses; but we 
soon found that we must go in order — the oldest first, for the old 
sailors did not choose to be preceded by a couple of youngsters; and 
bon gre mal gre, we had to wait our turn, with the twofold 
apprehension of being too late for our horses, and of getting corned; 
for drink you must, every time; and if you drink with one and 
not with another, it is always taken as an insult. 

Having at length gone through our turns and acquitted our- 
selves of all obligations, we slipped out, and went about among the 
houses, endeavoring to get horses for the day, so that we might 
ride round and see the country. At first we had but little success, 
all that we could get out of the lazy fellows, in reply to our 
questions, being the eternal drawling "Quien sabe?" ("who 
knows?") which is an answer to all questions. After several efforts, 
we at length fell in with a little Sandwich Island boy, who belonged 
to Captain Wilson of the Ayacucho, and was well acquainted in 
the place; and he, knowing where to go, soon procured us two 
horses, ready saddled and bridled, each with a lasso coiled over 
the pommel. These we were to have all day, with the privilege of 
riding them down to the beach at night, for a dollar, which we had to 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST II5 

pay in advance. Horses are the cheapest thing in California; the 
very best not being worth more than ten dollars apiece, and very 
good ones being often sold for three, and four. In taking a day's 
ride, you pay for the use of the saddle, and for the labor and 
trouble of catching the horses. If you bring the saddle back safe, 
they care but little what becomes of the horse. Mounted on our 
horses, which were spirited beasts, and which, by the way, in this 
country, are always steered by pressing the contrary rein against 
the neck, and not by pulling on the bit, — we started off on a fine 
run over the country. The first place we went to was the old 
ruinous presidio, which stands on a rising ground near the village, 
which it overlooks. It is built in the form of an open square, like 
all the other presidios, and was in a most ruinous state, with the 
exception of one side, in which the commandant lived, with his 
family. There were only two guns, one of which was spiked, and 
the other had no carriage. Twelve, half clothed, and half starved 
looking fellows, composed the garrison; and they, it was said, had 
not a musket apiece. The small settlement lay directly below the 
fort, composed of about forty dark brown looking huts, or houses, 
and two larger ones, plastered, which belonged to two of the "gente 
de razon." This town is not more than half as large as Monterey, 
or Santa Barbara, and has little or no business. From the presidio, 
we rode off in the direction of the mission, which we were told was 
three miles distant. The country was rather sandy, and there was 
nothing for miles which could be called a tree, but the grass grew 
green and rank, and there were many bushes and thickets, and the 
soil is said to be good. After a pleasant ride of a couple of miles, 
we saw the white walls of the mission, and fording a small river, 
we came directly before it. The mission is built of mud, or rather 
of the unburnt bricks of the country, and plastered. There was some- 
thing decidedly striking in its appearance: a number of irregular 
buildings, connected with one another, and disposed in the form of 
a hollow square, with a church at one end, rising above the rest, 
with a tower containing five belfries, in each of which hung a large 
bell, and with immense rusty iron crosses at the tops. Just outside 
of the buildings, and under the walls, stood twenty or thirty small 
huts, built of straw and of the branches of trees, grouped together, 



Il6 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

in which a few Indians lived, under the protection and in the service 
of the mission. 

Entering a gate-way, we drove into the open square, in which the 
stillness of death reigned. On one side was the church; on another, 
a range of high buildings with grated windows; a third was a range 
of smaller buildings, or offices; and the fourth seemed to be little 
more than a high connecting wall. Not a living creature could we 
see. We rode twice round the square, in the hope of waking up 
some one; and in one circuit, saw a tall monk, with shaven head, 
sandals, and the dress of the Grey Friars, pass rapidly through a 
gallery, but he disappeared without noticing us. After two circuits, 
we stopped our horses, and saw, at last, a man show himself in 
front of one of the small buildings. We rode up to him, and found 
him dressed in the common dress of the country, with a silver 
chain round his neck, supporting a large bunch of keys. From this, 
we took him to be the steward of the mission, and addressing him 
as "Mayordomo," received a low bow and an invitation to walk 
into his room. Making our horses fast, we went in. It was a plain 
room, containing a table, three or four chairs, a small picture or 
two of some saint, or miracle, or martyrdom, and a few dishes and 
glasses. "Hay algunas cosa de comer?" said I. "Si Senor!" said he. 
"Que gusta usted?" Mentioning frijoles, which I knew they must 
have if they had nothing else, and beef and bread, and a hint for 
wine, if they had any, he went off to another building, across the 
court, and returned in a few moments, with a couple of Indian 
boys, bearing dishes and a decanter of wine. The dishes contained 
baked meats, frijoles stewed with peppers and onions, boiled eggs, 
and California flour baked into a kind of macaroni. These, to- 
gether with the wine, made the most sumptuous meal we had 
eaten since we left Boston; and, compared with the fare we had lived 
upon for seven months, it was a regal banquet. After despatching 
our meal, we took out some money and asked him how much we 
were to pay. He shook his head, and crossed himself, saying that it 
was charity: — that the Lord gave it to us. Knowing the amount 
of this to be that he did not sell it, but was willing to receive a 
present, we gave him ten or twelve reals, which he pocketed with 
admirable nonchalance, saying, "Dios se lo pague." Taking leave 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST II7 

of him, we rode out to the Indians' huts. The little children were 
running about among the huts, stark naked, and the men were not 
much better; but the women had generally coarse gowns, of a sort of 
tow cloth. The men are employed, most of the time, in tending the 
cattle of the mission, and in working in the garden, which is a very 
large one, including several acres, and filled, it is said, with the 
best fruits of the climate. The language of these people, which is 
spoken by all the Indians of California, is the most brutish and in- 
human language, without any exception, that I ever heard, or that 
could well be conceived of. It is a complete slabber. The words 
fall off of the ends of their tongues, and a continual slabbering sound 
is made in the cheeks, outside of the teeth. It cannot have been 
the language of Montezuma and the independent Mexicans. 

Here, among the huts, we saw the oldest man that I had ever 
seen; and, indeed, I never supposed that a person could retain life 
and exhibit such marks of age. He was sitting out in the sun, 
leaning against the side of a hut; and his legs and arms, which 
were bare, were of a dark red color, the skin withered and shrunk 
up like burnt leather, and the limbs not larger round than those of 
a boy of five years. He had a few grey hairs, which were tied 
together at the back of his head; and he was so feeble that, when 
we came up to him, he raised his hands slowly to his face, and 
taking hold of his lids with his fingers, lifted them up to look at us; 
and being satisfied, let them drop again. All command over the lid 
seemed to have gone. I asked his age, but could get no answer but 
"Quien sabe.'" and they probably did not know the age. 

Leaving the mission, we returned to village, going nearly all the 
way on a full run. The CaUfornia horses have no medium gait, 
which is pleasant, between walking and running; for as there are 
no streets and parades, they have no need of the genteel trot, and 
their riders usually keep them at the top of their speed until they 
are tired, and then let them rest themselves by walking. The fine air 
of the afternoon; the rapid rate of the animals, who seemed almost 
to fly over the ground; and the excitement and novelty of the 
motion to us, who had been so long confined on shipboard, were 
exhilarating beyond expression, and we felt willing to ride all day 
^ong. Coming into tVie v'lWage, we iound iViings looking -very \ive\y. 



Il8 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

The Indians, who always have a holyday on Sunday, were engaged 
at playing a kind of running game of ball, on a level piece of ground, 
near the houses. The old ones sat down in a ring, looking on, 
while the young ones — men, boys and girls — were chasing the ball, 
and throwing it with all their might. Some of the girls ran like 
greyhounds. At every accident, or remarkable feat, the old people 
set up a deafening screaming and clapping of hands. Several blue 
jackets were reeling about among the houses, which showed that 
the pulperias had been well patronized. One or two of the sailors 
had got on horseback, but being rather indifferent horsemen, and the 
Spaniards having given them vicious horses, they were soon thrown, 
much to the amusement of the people. A half dozen Sandwich 
Islanders, from the hide-houses and the two brigs, who are bold 
riders, were dashing about on the full gallop, hallooing and laughing 
like so many wild men. 

It was now nearly sundown, and S and myself went into a 

house and sat quietly down to rest ourselves before going down to 
the beach. Several people were soon collected to see "los Ingles 
marineros," and one of them — a young woman — took a great fancy 
to my pocket handkerchief, which was a large silk one that I had 
before going to sea, and a handsomer one than they had been in 
the habit of seeing. Of course, I gave it to her; which brought us 
into high favor; and we had a present of some pears and other 
fruits, which we took down to the beach with us. When we came 
to leave the house, we found that our horses, which we left tied 
at the door, were both gone. We had paid for them to ride down 
to the beach, but they were not to be found. We went to the man 
of whom we hired them, but he only shrugged his shoulders, and 
to our question, "Where are the horses?" only answered — "Quien 
sabe.?" but as he was very easy, and made no inquiries for the 
saddles, we saw that he knew very well where they were. After a 
little trouble, determined not to walk down, — a distance of three 
miles — we procured two, at four reals apiece, with an Indian boy 
to run on behind and bring them back. Determined to have "the go" 
out of the horses, for our trouble, we went down at full speed, and 
were on the beach in fifteen minutes. Wishing to make our liberty 
last as long as possible, we rode up and down among the hide-houses, 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST II9 

amusing ourselves with seeing the men, as they came down, (it 
was now dusk,) some on horseback and others on foot. The Sand- 
wich Islanders rode down, and were in "high snuff." We inquired 
for our shipmates, and were told that two of them had started on 
horseback and had been thrown or had fallen off, and were seen 
heading for the beach, but steering pretty wild, and by the looks 
of things, would not be down much before midnight. 

The Indian boys having arrived, we gave them our horses, and 
having seen them safely off, hailed for a boat and went aboard. 
Thus ended our first liberty-day on shore. We were well tired, but 
had had a good time, and were more willing to go back to our old 
duties. About midnight, we were waked up by our two watch- 
mates, who had come aboard in high dispute. It seems they 
had started to come down on the same horse, double-backed; and 
each was accusing the other of being the cause of his fall. They 
soon, however, turned-in and fell asleep, and probably forgot all 
about it, for the next morning the dispute was not renewed. 



CHAPTER XVII 
San Diego — A Desertion — San Pedro Again — Beating up Coast 

THE next sound we heard was "AH hands ahoy!" and look- 
ing up the scuttle, saw that it was just daylight. Our liberty 
had now truly taken flight, and with it we laid away our 
pumps, stockings, blue jackets, neckerchiefs, and other go-ashore 
paraphernalia, and putting on old duck trowsers, red shirts, and 
Scotch caps, began taking out and landing our hides. For three 
days we were hard at work, from the grey o£ the morning until 
starlight, with the exception of a short time allowed for meals, in 
this duty. For landing and taking on board hides, San Diego is 
decidedly the best place in California. The harbor is small and 
land-locked; there is no surf; the vessels lie within a cable's length of 
the beach; and the beach itself is smooth, hard sand, without rocks 
or stones. For these reasons, it is used by all the vessels in the trade, 
as a depot; and, indeed, it would be impossible, when loading with 
the cured hides for the passage home, to take them on board at any 
of the open ports, without getting them wet in the surf, which 
would spoil them. We took possession of one of the hide-houses, 
which belonged to our firm, and had been used by the California. 
It was built to hold forty thousand hides, and we had the pleasing 
prospect of filling it before we could leave the coast; and toward 
this, our thirty-five hundred, which we brought down with us, 
would do but little. There was not a man on board who did not 
go a dozen times into the house, and look round, and make some 
calculation of the time it would require. 

The hides, as they come rough and uncured from the vessels, are 
piled up outside of the houses, whence they are taken and carried 
through a regular process of pickling, drying, cleaning, etc., and 
stowed away in the house, ready to be put on board. This process 
is necessary in order that they may keep, during a long voyage, and 
in warm latitudes. For the purpose of curing and taking care of 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 121 

these hides, an officer and a part of the crew of each vessel are 
usually left ashore and it was for this business, we found, that our 
new officer had joined us. As soon as the hides were landed, he 
took charge of the house, and the captain intended to leave two or 
three of us with him, hiring Sandwich Islanders to take our places 
on board; but he could not get any Sandwich Islanders to go, 
though he offered them fifteen dollars a month; for the report of 
the flogging had got among them, and he was called "aole maikai," 
(no good,) and that was an end of the business. They were, how- 
ever, willing to work on shore, and four of them were hired and 
put with Mr. Russell to cure the hides. 

After landing our hides, we next sent ashore all our spare spars 
and rigging; all the stores which we did not want to use in the 
course of one trip to windward; and, in fact, everything which we 
could spare, so as to make room for hides: among other things, 
the pig-sty, and with it "old Bess." This was an old sow that we 
had brought from Boston, and which lived to get around Cape 
Horn, where all the other pigs died from cold and wet. Report 
said that she had been a Canton voyage before. She had been the 
pet of the cook during the whole passage, and he had fed her with 
the best of everything, and taught her to know his voice, and to 
do a number of strange tricks for his amusement. Tom Cringle 
says that no one can fathom a negro's affection for a pig; and I 
believe he is right, for it almost broke our poor dar\y's heart when 
he heard that Bess was to be taken ashore, and that he was to have 
the care of her no more during the whole voyage. He had depended 
upon her as a solace, during the long trips up and down the coast. 
"Obey orders, if you break owners!" said he. "Break hearts',' he 
meant to have said; and lent a hand to get her over the side, 
trying to make it as easy for her as possible. We got a whip up on 
the main-yard, and hooking it to a strap around her body, swayed 
away; and giving a wink to one another, ran her chock up to the 
yard. " 'Vast there! 'vast!" said the mate; "none of your skylarking! 
Lower away!" But he evidently enjoyed the joke. The pig squealed 
like the "crack of doom," and tears stood in the poor darky's eyes; 
and he muttered something about having no pity on a dumb beast. 
"Dumb beast!" said Jack; "if she's what you call a dumb beast, 



122 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

then my eyes a'n't mates." This produced a laugh from all but 
the cook. He was too intent upon seeing her safe in the boat. He 
watched her all the way ashore, where, upon her landing, she was 
received by a whole troop of her kind, who had been sent ashore 
from the other vessels, and had multiplied and formed a large com- 
monwealth. From the door of his galley, the cook used to watch 
them in their manoeuvres, setting up a shout and clapping his hands 
whenever Bess came off victorious in the struggles for pieces of 
raw hide and half-picked bones which were lying about the beach. 
During the day, he saved all the nice things, and made a bucket of 
swill, and asked us to take it ashore in the gig, and looked quite 
disconcerted when the mate told him that he would pitch the 
swill overboard, and him after it, if he saw any of it go into the 
boats. We told him that he thought more about the pig than he did 
about his wife, who lived down in Robinson's Alley; and, indeed, 
he could hardly have been more attentive, for he actually, on several 
nights, after dark, when he thought he would not be seen, sculled 
himself ashore in a boat with a bucket of nice swill, and returned 
like Leander from crossing the Hellespont. 

The next Sunday the other half of our crew went ashore on liberty, 
and left us on board, to enjoy the first quiet Sunday which we had 
had upon the coast. Here were no hides to come off, and no south- 
easters to fear. We washed and mended our clothes in the morning, 
and spent the rest of the day in reading and writing. Several of us 
wrote letters to send home by the Lagoda. At twelve o'clock the 
Ayacucho dropped her fore topsail, which was a signal for her 
sailing. She unmoored and warped down into the bight, from which 
she got under way. During this operation, her crew were a long 
time heaving at the windlass, and I listened for nearly an hour to 
the musical notes of a Sandwich Islander, called Mahannah, who 
"sang out" for them. Sailors, when heaving at a windlass, in order 
that they may heave together, always have one to sing out; which is 
done in a peculiar, high and long-drawn note, varying with the 
motion of the windlass. This requires a high voice, strong lungs, 
and much practice, to be done well. This fellow had a very peculiar, 
wild sort of note, breaking occasionally into a falsetto. The sailors 
thought it was too high, and not enough of the boatswain hoarseness 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 23 

about it; but to me it had a great charm. The harbor was perfectly 
still, and his voice rang among the hills, as though it could have 
been heard for miles. Toward sundown, a good breeze having 
sprung up, she got under weigh, and with her long, sharp head 
cutting elegantly through the water, on a taught bowline, she 
stood directly out of the harbor, and bore away to the southward. 
She was bound to Callao, and thence to the Sandwich Islands, 
and expected to be on the coast again in eight or ten months. 
At the close of the week we were ready to sail, but were delayed 

a day or two by the running away of F , the man who had 

been our second mate, and was turned forward. From the time 
that he was "broken," he had had a dog's berth on board the vessel, 
and determined to run away at the first opportunity. Having 
shipped for an officer when he was not half a seaman, he found 
little pity with the crew, and was not man enough to hold his 
ground among them. The captain called him a "soger,"^ and 
promised to "ride him down as he would the main tack;" and when 
officers are once determined to "ride a man down," it is a gone 
case with him. He had had several difficulties with the captain, 
and asked leave to go home in the Lagoda; but this was refused him. 
One night he was insolent to an officer on the beach, and refused 
to come aboard in the boat. He was reported to the captain; and 
as he came aboard, — it being past the proper hour, — he was called 
aft, and told that he was to have a flogging. Immediately, he fell 

down on the deck, calling out — "Don't flog me. Captain T ; 

don't flog me!" and the captain, angry with him, and disgusted 
with his cowardice, gave him a few blows over the back with a 
rope's end and sent him forward. He was not much hurt, but a 
good deal frightened, and made up his mind to run away that 
very night. This was managed better than anything he ever did 
in his life, and seemed really to show some spirit and forethought. 

^ Soger (soldier) is the worst term of reproach that can be applied to a sailor. It 
signifies a shfill^, a sherh^, — one who is always trying to get clear of work, and is out 
of the way, or hanging back, when duty is to be done. "Marine" is the term applied 
more particularly to a man who is ignorant and clumsy about seaman's work — a green- 
horn — a land-lubber. To make a sailor shoulder a handspike, and walk fore and aft 
the deck, like a sentry, is the most ignominious punishment that could be put upon 
him. Such a punishment inflicted upon an able seaman in a vessel of war, would 
break his spirit down more than a flogging. 



124 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

He gave his bedding and mattress to one of the Lagoda's crew, 
who took it aboard his vessel as something which he had bought, 
and promised to keep it for him. He then unpacked his chest, 
putting all his valuable clothes into a large canvas bag, and told 
one of us, who had the watch, to call him at midnight. Coming 
on deck, at midnight, and finding no officer on deck, and all still 
aft, he lowered his bag into a boat, got softly down into it, cast off 
the painter, and let it drop silently with the tide until he was out of 
hearing, when he sculled ashore. 

The next morning, when all hands were mustered, there was a 

great stir to find F . Of course, we would tell nothing, and all 

they could discover was, that he had left an empty chest behind him, 
and that he went off in a boat; for they saw it lying up high and dry 
on the beach. After breakfast, the captain went up to the town, 
and offered a reward of twenty dollars for him; and for a couple 
of days, the soldiers, Indians, and all others who had nothing to do, 
were scouring the country for him, on horseback, but without 
effect; for he was safely concealed, all the time, within fifty rods of 
the hide-houses. As soon as he had landed, he went directly to the 
Lagoda's hide-house, and a part of her crew, who were living 
there on shore, promised to conceal him and his traps until the 
Pilgrim should sail, and then to intercede with Captain Bradshaw 
to take him on board the ship. Just behind the hide-houses, among 
the thickets and underwood, was a small cave, the entrance to 
which was known only to two men on the beach, and which was so 
well concealed that, though, when I afterwards came to live on 
shore, it was shown to me two or three times, I was never able to 
find it alone. To this cave he was carried before daybreak in the 
morning, and supplied with bread and water, and there remained 
until he saw us under weigh and well round the point. 

Friday, March 2'jth. The captain, having given up all hope of 

finding F , and being unwilling to delay any longer, gave 

orders for unmooring the ship, and we made sail, dropping slowly 
down with the tide and light wind. We left letters with Captain 
Bradshaw to take to Boston, and had the satisfaction of hearing him 
say that he should be back again before we left the coast. The 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 25 

wind, which was very Hght, died away soon after we doubled the 
point, and we lay becalmed for two days, not moving three miles the 
whole time, and a part of the second day were almost within sight 
of the vessels. On the third day, about noon, a cool sea-breeze came 
rippling and darkening the surface of the water, and by sundown 
we were off San Juan's, which is about forty miles from San Diego, 
and is called half way to San Pedro, where we were now bound. 
Our crew was now considerably weakened. One man we had lost 
overboard; another had been taken aft as clerk; and a third had 

run away; so that, beside S and myself, there were only three 

able seamen and one boy of twelve years of age. With this 
diminished and discontented crew, and in a small vessel, we were 
now to battle the watch through a couple of years of hard service; 

yet there was not one who was not glad that F had escaped; 

for, shiftless and good for nothing as he was, no one could wish 
to see him dragging on a miserable life, cowed down and dis- 
heartened; and we were all rejoiced to hear, upon our return to 
San Diego, about two months afterwards, that he had been im- 
mediately taken aboard the Lagoda, and went home in her, on 
regular seaman's wages. 

After a slow passage of five days, we arrived, on Wednesday, 
the first of April, at our old anchoring ground at San Pedro. The 
bay was as deserted, and looked as dreary, as before, and formed 
no pleasing contrast with the security and snugness of San Diego, 
and the activity and interest which the loading and unloading of 
four vessels gave to that scene. In a few days the hides began to come 
slowly down, and we got into the old business of rolling goods up 
the hill, pitching hides down, and pulling our long league off and 
on. Nothing of note occurred while we were lying here, except 
that an attempt was made to repair the small Mexican brig which 
had been cast away in a south-easter, and which now lay up, high 
and dry, over one reef of rocks and two sand-banks. Our carpenter 
surveyed her, and pronounced her capable of refitting, and in a 
few days the owners came down from the Pueblo, and, waiting for 
the high spring tides, with the help of our cables, kedges, and crew, 
got her ofl and afloat, after several trials. The three men at the 



126 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

house on shore, who had formerly been a part of her crew, now 
joined her, and seemed glad enough at the prospect of getting off 
the coast. 

On board our own vessel, things went on in the common 
monotonous way. The excitement which immediately followed the 
flogging scene had passed off, but the effect of it upon the crew, 
and especially upon the two men themselves,remained. The different 
manner in which these men were affected, corresponding to their 
different characters, was not a little remarkable. John was a foreigner 
and high-'tempered, and, though mortified, as any one would be at 
having had the worst of an encounter, yet his chief feeling seemed 
to be anger; and he talked much of satisfaction and revenge, if he 
ever got back to Boston. But with the other, it was very different. 
He was an American, and had had some education; and this thing 
coming upon him, seemed completely to break him down. He had 
a feeling of the degradation that had been inflicted upon him, which 
the other man was incapable of. Before that, he had a good deal of 
fun, and amused us often with queer negro stories, — (he was from a 
slave state); but afterwards he seldom smiled; seemed to lose all 
life and elasticity; and appeared to have but one wish, and that was 
for the voyage to be at an end. I have often known him to draw a 
long sigh when he was alone, and he took but little part or interest 
in John's plans of satisfaction and retaliation. 

After a stay of about a fortnight, during which we slipped for 
one south-easter, and were at sea two days, we got under weigh for 
Santa Barbara. It was now the middle of April, and the south- 
easter season was nearly over; and the light, regular trade- winds, 
which blow down the coast, began to set steadily in, during the 
latter part of each day. Against these, we beat slowly up to Santa 
Barbara — a distance of about ninety miles — in three days. There we 
found, lying at anchor, the large Genoese ship which we saw in the 
same place, on the first day of our coming upon the coast. She had 
been up to San Francisco, or, as it is called, "chock up to windward," 
had stopped at Monterey on her way down, and was shortly to 
proceed to San Pedro and San Diego, and thence, taking in her 
cargo, to sail for Valparaiso and Cadiz. She was a large, clumsy 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST IX] 

ship, and with her topmasts stayed forward, and high poop-deck, 
looked like an old woman with a crippled back. It was now the 
close of Lent, and on Good Friday she had all her yards a'cock-bill, 
which is customary among Catholic vessels. Some also have an 
effigy of Judas, which the crew amuse themselves with keel-hauling 
and hanging by the neck from the yard-arms. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

Easter Sunday — "Sail Ho!" — ^Whales — San Juan — Romance of 
Hide-Droghing — San Diego Again 



T 



^HE next Sunday was Easter Sunday, and as there had been 
no liberty at San Pedro, it was our turn to go ashore and 
misspend another Sabbath. Soon after breakfast, a large 
boat, filled with men in blue jackets, scarlet caps, and various 
colored under-clothes, bound ashore on liberty, left the Italian ship, 
and passed under our stern; the men singing beautiful Italian boat- 
songs, all the way, in fine, full chorus. Among the songs I recognized 
the favorite "O Pescator dell' onda." It brought back to my mind 
pianofortes, drawing-rooms, young ladies singing, and a thousand 
other things which as little befitted me, in my situation, to be think- 
ing upon. Supposing that the whole day would be too long a time 
to spend ashore, as there was no place to which we could take a ride, 
we remained quietly on board until after dinner. We were then 
pulled ashore in the stern of the boat, and, with orders to be on 
the beach at sundown, we took our way for the town. There, 
everything wore the appearance of a holyday. The people were 
all dressed in their best; the men riding about on horseback among 
the houses, and the women sitting on carpets before the doors. 
Under the piazza of a "pulperia," two men were seated, decked out 
with knots of ribbons and bouquets, and playing the violin and 
the Spanish guitar. These are the only instruments, with the excep- 
tion of the drums and trumpets at Monterey that I ever heard in 
California; and I suspect they play upon no others, for at a great 
fandango at which I was afterwards present, and where they mustered 
all the music they could find, there were three violins and two 
guitars, and no other instrument. As it was now too near the middle 
of the day to see any dancing and hearing that a bull was expected 
down from the country, to be baited in the presidio square, in the 
course of an hour or two we took a stroll among the houses. In- 

128 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 29 

quiring for an American who, we had been told, had married in the 
place, and kept a shop, we were directed to a long, low building, 
at the end of which was a door, with a sign over it, in Spanish. 
Entering the shop, we found no one in it, and the whole had an 
empty, deserted appearance. In a few minutes the man made his 
appearance, and apologized for having nothing to entertain us with, 
saying that he had had a fandango at his house the night before, 
and the people had eaten and drunk up everything. 

"Oh yes!" said I, "Easter holydays!" 

"No!" said he, with a singular expression to his face; "I had a 
little daughter die the other day, and that's the custom of the 
country." 

Here I felt a little strangely, not knowing what to say, or whether 
to offer consolation or no, and was beginning to retire, when he 
opened a side door and told us to walk in. Here I was no less 
astonished; for I found a large room, filled with young girls, from 
three or four years of age up to fifteen and sixteen, dressed all in 
white, with wreaths of flowers on their heads, and bouquets in 
their hands. Following our conductor through all these girls, who 
were playing about in high spirits, we came to a table, at the end 
of the room, covered with a white cloth, on which lay a coffin, 
about three feet long, with the body of his child. The coffin was 
lined on the outside with white cloth, and on the inside with white 
satin, and was strewed with flowers. Through an open door we 
saw, in another room, a few elderly people in common dresses; while 
the benches and tables thrown up in a corner, and the stained walls, 
gave evident signs of the last night's "high go." Feeling, like 
Garrick, between tragedy and comedy, an uncertainty of purpose 
and a little awkwardness, I asked the man when the funeral would 
take place, and being told that it would move toward the mission 
in about an hour, took my leave. 

To pass away the time, we took horses and rode down to the 
beach, and there found three or four Italian sailors, mounted, and 
riding up and down, on the hard sand, at a furious rate. We joined 
them, and found it fine sport. The beach gave us a stretch of a mile 
or more, and the horses flew over the smooth, hard sand, apparendy 
invigorated and excited by the salt sea-breeze, and by the continual 



130 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

roar and dashing of the breakers. From the beach we returned to 
the town, and finding that the funeral procession had moved, rode 
on and overtook it, about half-way to the mission. Here was as 
peculiar a sight as we had seen before in the house; the one looking 
as much like a funeral procession as the other did like a house of 
mourning. The little coffin was borne by eight girls, who were 
continually relieved by others, running forward from the procession 
and taking their places. Behind it came a straggling company of 
girls, dressed as before, in white and flowers, and including, I should 
suppose by their numbers, nearly all the girls between five and fifteen 
in the place. They played along on the way, frequently stopping 
and running all together to talk to some one, or to pick up a flower, 
and then running on again to overtake the coffin. There were a few 
elderly women in common colors; and a herd of young men and 
boys, some on foot and others mounted, followed them, or walked 
or rode by their side, frequently interrupting them by jokes and 
questions. But the most singular thing of all was, that two men 
walked, one on each side of the coffin, carrying muskets in their 
hands, which they continually loaded, and fired into the air. Whether 
this was to keep off the evil spirits or not, I do not know. It was 
the only interpretation that I could put upon it. 

As we drew near the mission, we saw the great gate thrown open, 
and the padre standing on the steps, with a crucifix in hand. The 
mission is a large and deserted-looking place, the out-buildings 
going to ruin, and everything giving one the impression of decayed 
grandeur. A large stone fountain threw out pure water, from four 
mouths, into a basin, before the church door; and we were on the 
point of riding up to let our horses drink, when it occurred to us 
that it might be consecrated, and we forbore. Just at this moment, 
the bells set up their harsh, discordant clang; and the procession 
moved into the court. I was anxious to follow, and see the ceremony, 
but the horse of one of my companions had become frightened, and 
was tearing off toward the town; and having thrown his rider, and 
got one of his feet caught in the saddle, which had slipped, was fast 
dragging and ripping it to pieces. Knowing that my shipmate 
could not speak a word of Spanish, and fearing that he would get 
into difficulty, I was obliged to leave the ceremony and ride after 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I3I 

him. I soon overtook him, trudging along, swearing at the horse, 
and carrying the remains of the saddle, which he had picked up 
on the road. Going to the owner of the horse, we made a settle- 
ment with him, and found him surprisingly liberal. All parts of 
the saddle were brought back, and, being capable of repair, he was 
satisfied with six reals. We thought it would have been a few 
dollars. We pointed to the horse, which was now half way up one 
of the mountains; but he shook his head, saying, "No importe!" 
and giving us to understand that he had plenty more. 

Having returned to the town, we saw a great crowd collected in 
the square before the principal pulperia, and riding up, found that 
all these people — men, women, and children — had been drawn to- 
gether by a couple of bantam cocks. The cocks were in full tilt, 
springing into one another, and the people were as eager, laughing 
and shouting, as though the combatants had been men. There had 
been a disappointment about the bull; he had broken his bail, and 
taken himself off, and it was too late to get another; so the people 
were obliged to put up with a cock-fight. One of the bantams having 
been knocked in the head, and had an eye put out, he gave in, and 
two monstrous prize-cocks were brought on. These were the object 
of the whole affair; the two bantams having been merely served up 
as a first course, to collect the people together. Two fellows came 
into the ring holding the cocks in their arms, and stroking them, 
and running about on all fours, encouraging and setting them on. 
Bets ran high, and, like most other contests, it remained for some 
time undecided. They both showed great pluck, and fought probably 
better and longer than their masters would have done. Whether, 
in the end, it was the white or the red that beat, I do not recollect; 
but, whichever it was, he strutted off with the true veni-vidi-vici look, 
leaving the other lying panting on his beam-ends. 

This matter having been settled, we heard some talk about 
"caballos" and "carrera" and seeing the people all streaming off in 
one direction, we followed, and came upon a level piece of ground, 
just out of the town, which was used as a race-course. Here the 
crowd soon became thick again; the ground was marked off; the 
judges stationed; and the horses led up to one end. Two fine- 
looking old gentlemen — Don Carlos and Don Domingo, so called — 



132 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

held the stakes, and all was now ready. We waited some time, 
during which we could just see the horses twisting round and turn- 
ing, until, at length, there was a shout along the lines, and on they 
came — heads stretched out and eyes starting; — working all over, 
both man and beast. The steeds came by us like a couple of chain- 
shot — neck and neck; and now we could see nothing but their 
backs, and their hind hoofs flying in the air. As fast as the horses 
passed, the crowd broke up behind them, and ran to the goal. When 
we got there, we found the horses returning on a slow walk, having 
run far beyond the mark, and heard that the long, bony one had 
come in head and shoulders before the other. The riders were light- 
built men; had handkerchiefs tied round their heads; and were bare- 
armed and bare-legged. The horses were noble-looking beasts, not 
so sleek and combed as our Boston stable-horses, but with fine limbs, 
and spirited eyes. After this had been settled, and fully talked over, 
the crowd scattered again and flocked back to the town. 

Returning to the large pulperia, we found the violin and guitar 
screaming and twanging away under the piazza, where they had 
been all day. As it was now sundown, there began to be some 
dancing. The Italian sailors danced, and one of our crew exhibited 
himself in a sort of West India shuffle, much to the amusement of 
the bystanders, who cried out, "Bravo!" "Otra vez!" and "Vivan 
los marineros!" but the dancing did not become general, as the 
women and the "gente de razon" had not yet made their appearance. 
We wished very much to stay and see the style of dancing; but, 
although we had had our own way during the day, yet we were, 
after all, but 'foremast Jacks; and having been ordered to be on the 
beach by sundown, did not venture to be more than an hour behind 
the time; so we took our way down. We found the boat just pulling 
ashore through the breakers, which were running high, there having 
been a heavy fog outside, which, from some cause or other, always 
brings on, or precedes a heavy sea. Liberty-men are privileged 
from the time they leave the vessel until they step on board again; so 
we took our places in the stern sheets, and were congratulating our- 
selves upon getting off dry, when a great comber broke fore and 
aft the boat, and wet us through and through, filling the boat 
half full of water. Having lost her buoyancy by the weight of the 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I33 

water, she dropped heavily into every sea that struck her, and by 
the time we had pulled out o£ the surf into deep water, she was but 
just afloat, and we were up to our knees. By the help of a small 
bucket and our hats, we bailed her out, got on board, hoisted the 
boats, eat our supper, changed our clothes, gave (as is usual) the 
whole history of our day's adventures to those who had staid on 
board, and having taken a night-smoke, turned-in. Thus ended 
our second day's liberty on shore. 

On Monday morning, as an offset to our day's sport, we were all 
set to work "tarring down" the rigging. Some got girt-lines up for 
riding down the stays and back-stays, and others tarred the shrouds, 
lifts, etc., laying out on the yards, and coming down the rigging. We 
overhauled our bags and took out our old tarry trowsers and frocks, 
which we had used when we tarred down before, and were all at 
work in the rigging by sunrise. After breakfast, we had the satis- 
faction of seeing the Italian ship's boat go ashore, filled with men, 
gaily dressed, as on the day before, and singing their barcaroUas. 
The Easter holy days are kept up on shore during three days; and 
being a Catholic vessel, the crew had the advantage of them. For 
two successive days, while perched up in the rigging, covered with tar 
and engaged in our disagreeable work, we saw these fellows going 
ashore in the morning, and coming off again at night, in high spirits. 
So much for being Protestants. There's no danger of Catholicism's 
spreading in New England; Yankees can't afford the time to be 
Catholics. American shipmasters get nearly three weeks more labor 
out of their crews, in the course of a year, than the masters of vessels 
from Catholic countries. Yankees don't keep Christmas, and ship- 
masters at sea never know when Thanksgiving comes, so Jack has 
no festival at all. 

About noon, a man aloft called out "Sail ho!" and looking round, 
we saw the head sails of a vessel coming round the point. As she 
drew round, she showed the broadside of a full-rigged brig, with 
the Yankee ensign at her peak. We ran up our stars and stripes, and, 
knowing that there was no American brig on the coast but ourselves, 
expected to have news from home. She rounded-to and let go her 
anchor, but the dark faces on her yards, when they furled the sails, 
and the Babel on deck, soon made known that she was from the 



134 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

Islands. Immediately afterwards, a boat's crew came aboard, bring- 
ing her skipper, and from them we learned that she was from Oahu, 
and was engaged in the same trade with the Ayacucho, Loriotte, 
etc., between the coast, the Sandwich Islands, and the leeward coast 
of Peru and Chili. Her captain and officers were Americans, and 
also a part of her crew; the rest were Islanders. She was called the 
Catalina, and, like all the others vessels in that trade, except the 
Ayacucho, her papers and colors were from Uncle Sam. They, of 
course, brought us no news, and we were doubly disappointed, for 
we had thought, at first, it might be the ship which we were expect- 
ing from Boston. 

After lying here about a fortnight, and collecting all the hides the 
place afforded, we set sail again for San Pedro. There we found 
the brig which we had assisted in getting off lying at anchor, with 
a mixed crew of Americans, English, Sandwich Islanders, 
Spaniards, and Spanish Indians; and, though much smaller than 
we, yet she had three times the number of men; and she needed 
them, for her officers were Californians. No vessels in the world 
go so poorly manned as American and English; and none do so well. 
A Yankee brig of that size would have had a crew of four men, and 
would have worked round and round her. The Italian ship had a 
crew of thirty men; nearly three times as many as the Alert, which 
was afterwards on the coast, and was of the same size; yet the Alert 
would get under weigh and come-to in half the time, and get two 
anchors, while they were all talking at once — jabbering like a parcel 
of "Yahoos," and running about decks to find their cat-block. 

There was only one point in which they had the advantage over 
us, and that was in lightening their labors in the boats by their 
songs. The Americans are a time and money saving people, but 
have not yet, as a nation, learned that music may be "turned to 
account." We pulled the long distances to and from the shore, with 
our loaded boats, without a word spoken, and with discontented 
looks, while they not only lightened the labor of rowing, but actually 
made it pleasant and cheerful, by their music. So true is it, that — 

"For the tired slave, song lifts the languid oar, 

And bids it aptly fall, with chime 
That beautifies the fairest shore, 

And mitigates the harshest clime." 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I35 

We lay about a week in San Pedro, and got under weigh for San 
Diego, intending to stop at San Juan, as the south-easter season was 
nearly over, and there was httle or no danger. 

This being the spring season, San Pedro, as well as all the other 
open ports upon the coast, was filled with whales, that had come in 
to make their annual visit upon soundings. For the first few days 
that we were here and at Santa Barbara, we watched them with 
great interest — calling out "there she blows!" every time we saw the 
spout of one breaking the surface of the water; but they soon became 
so common that we took little notice of them. They often "broke" 
very near us; and one thick, foggy night, during a dead calm, while 
I was standing anchor-watch, one of them rose so near, that he 
struck our cable, and made all surge again. He did not seem to like 
the encounter much himself, for he sheered off, and spouted at a 
good distance. We once came very near running one down in the 
gig, and should probably have been knocked to pieces and blown 
sky-high. We had been on board the little Spanish brig, and were 
returning, stretching out well at our oars, the little boat going Uke a 
swallow; our backs were forward, (as is always the case in pulling,) 
and the captain, who was steering, was not looking ahead, when, all 
at once, we heard the spout of a whale directly ahead. "Back water! 
back water, for your lives!" shouted the captain; and we backed 
our blades in the water and brought the boat to in a smother of 
foam. Turning our heads, we saw a great, rough, hump-backed 
whale, slowly crossing our fore foot, within three or four yards of the 
boat's stem. Had we not backed water just as we did, we should 
inevitably have gone smash upon him, striking him with our stem 
just about amidships. He took no notice of us, but passed slowly on, 
and dived a few yards beyond us, throwing his tail high in the air. 
He was so near that we had a perfect view of him and as may be 
supposed, had no desire to see him nearer. He was a disgusting 
creature; with a skin rough, hairy, and of an iron-grey color. This 
kind differs much from the sperm, in color and skin, and is said to 
be fiercer. We saw a few sperm whales; but most of the whales 
that come upon the coast are fin-backs, hump-backs, and right- 
whales, which are more difficult to take, and are said not to give oil 
enough to pay for the trouble. For this reason whale-ships do not 
come upon the coast after them. Our captain, together with Captain 



136 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

Nye of the Loriotte, who had been in a whale-ship, thought of 
making an attempt upon one of them with two boats' crews, but 
as we had only two harpoons and no proper lines, they gave it up. 

During the months of March, April, and May, these whales 
appear in great numbers in the open ports of Santa Barbara, San 
Pedro, etc., and hover off the coast, while a few find their way into 
the close harbors of San Diego and Monterey. They are all off again 
before midsummer, and make their appearance on the "off-shore 
ground." We saw some fine "schools" of sperm whales, which are 
easily distinguished by their spout, blowing away, a few miles to 
windward, on our passage to San Juan. 

Coasting along on the quiet shore of the Pacific, we came to anchor, 
in twenty fathoms' water, almost out at sea, as it were, and directly 
abreast of a steep hill which overhung the water, and was twice as 
high as our royal-mast-head. We had heard much of this place, from 
the Lagoda's crew, who said it was the worst place in California. 
The shore is rocky, and directly exposed to the south-east, so that 
vessels are obliged to slip and run for their lives on the first sign of 
a gale; and late as it was in the season, we got up our slip-rope and 
gear, though we meant to stay only twenty-four hours. We pulled the 
agent ashore, and were ordered to wait for him, while he took a cir- 
cuitous way round the hill to the mission, which was hidden behind 
it. We were glad of the opportunity to examine this singular place, 
and hauling the boat up and making her well fast, took different 
directions up and down the beach, to explore it. 

San Juan is the only romantic spot in California. The country 
here for several miles is high table-land, running boldly to the shore, 
and breaking off in a steep hill, at the foot of which the waters of the 
Pacific are constantly dashing. For several miles the water washes 
the very base of the hill, or breaks upon ledges' and fragments of 
rocks which run out into the sea. Just where we landed was a small 
cove, or "bight," which gave us, at high tide, a few square feet of 
sand-beach between the sea and the bottom of the hill. This was 
the only landing-place. Directly before us, rose the perpendicular 
height of four or five hundred feet. How we were to get hides down, 
or goods up, upon the table-land on which the mission was situated, 
was more than we could tell. The agent had taken a long circuit, 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I37 

and yet had frequently to jump over breaks, and climb up steep 
places, in the ascent. No animal but a man or monkey could get up 
it. However, that was not our look-out; and knowing that the agent 
would be gone an hour or more, we strolled about, picking up shells, 
and following the sea where it tumbled in, roaring and spouting, 
among the crevices of the great rocks. What a sight, thought I, must 
this be in a south-easter! The rocks were as large as those of Nahant 
or Newport, but, to my eye, more grand and broken. Beside, there 
was a grandeur in everything around, which gave almost a solemnity 
to the scene: a silence and solitariness which affected everything! 
Not a human being but ourselves for miles; and no sound heard but 
the pulsations of the great Pacific! and the great steep hill rising 
like a wall, and cutting us off from all the world, but the "world of 
waters!" I separated myself from the rest and sat down on a rock, 
just where the sea ran in and formed a fine spouting horn. Com- 
pared with the plain, dull sand-beach of the rest of the coast, this 
grandeur was as refreshing as a great rock in a weary land. It was 
almost the first time that I had been positively alone — ^free from 
the sense that human beings were at my elbow, if not talking with 
me — since I had left home. My better nature returned strong upon 
me. Everything was in accordance with my state of feeling, and I 
experienced a glow of pleasure at finding that what of poetry and 
romance I ever had in me, had not been entirely deadened by the 
laborious and frittering life I had led. Nearly an hour did I sit, 
almost lost in the luxury of this entire new scene of the play in 
which I had been so long acting, when I was aroused by the distant 
shouts of my companions, and saw that they were collecting together, 
as the agent had made his appearance, on his way back to our 
boat. 

We pulled aboard, and found the long-boat hoisted out, and nearly 
laden with goods; and after dinner, we all went on shore in the 
quarter-boat, with the long-boat in tow. As we drew in, we found 
an ox-cart and a couple of men standing directly on the brow of the 
hill; and having landed, the captain took his way round the hill, 
ordering me and one other to follow him. We followed, picking our 
way out, and jumping and scrambling up, walking over briers and 
prickly pears, until we came to the top. Here the country stretched 



138 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

out for miles as far as the eye could reach, on a level, table surface; 
and the only habitation in sight was the small white mission of San 
Juan Capistrano, with a few Indian huts about it, standing in a 
small hollow, about a mile from where we were. Reaching the 
brow of the hill where the cart stood, we found several piles of hides, 
and Indians sitting round them. One or two other carts were coming 
slowly on from the mission, and the captain told us to begin and 
throw the hides down. This, then, was the way they were to be got 
down: thrown down, one at a time, a distance of four hundred 
feet! This was doing the business on a great scale. Standing on 
the edge of the hill and looking down the perpendicular height, the 
sailors, 

-"That walk upon the beach, 



Apf)eared like mice; and our tall anchoring bark 
Diminished to her cock; her cock a buoy 
Almost too small for sight." 

Down this height we pitched the hides, throwing them as far out 
into the air as we could; and as they were all large, stiff, and 
doubled, like the cover of a book, the wind took them, and they 
swayed and eddied about, plunging and rising in the air, like a kite 
when it has broken its string. As it was now low tide, there was 
no danger of their falling into the water, and as fast as they came 
to ground, the men below picked them up, and taking them on 
their heads, walked off with them to the boat. It was really a pic- 
turesque sight: the great height; the scaling of the hides; and the 
continual walking to and fro of the men, who looked like mites, on 
the beach! This was the romance of hide-droghing! 

Some of the hides lodged in cavities which were under the bank 
and out of our sight, being directly under us; but by sending others 
down in the same direction, we succeeded in dislodging them. Had 
they remained there, the captain said he should have sent on board 
for a couple of pairs of long halyards, and got some one to have 
gone down for them. It was said that one of the crew of an English 
brig went down in the same way, a few years before. We looked 
over, and thought it would not be a welcome task, especially for a 
few paltry hides; but no one knows what he can do until he is called 
upon; for, six months afterwards, I went down the same place by a 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 39 

pair of top-gallant studding-sail halyards, to save a half a dozen 
hides which had lodged there. 

Having thrown them all down, we took our way back again, and 
found the boat loaded and ready to start. We pulled off; took the 
hides all aboard; hoisted in the boats; hove up our anchor; made 
sail; and before sundown, were on our way to San Diego. 

Friday, May 8th, 18]^. Arrived at San Diego. Here we found 
the little harbor deserted. The Lagoda, Ayacucho, Loriotte, and 
all, had left the coast, and we were nearly alone. All the hide-houses 
on the beach, but ours, were shut up, and the Sandwich Islanders, 
a dozen or twenty in number, who had worked for the other vessels 
and been paid off when they sailed, were living on the beach, keep- 
ing up a grand carnival. A Russian discovery-ship which had been 
in this port a few years before, had built a large oven for baking 
bread, and went away, leaving it standing. This, the Sandwich 
Islanders took possession of, and had kept, ever since, undisturbed. 
It was big enough to hold six or eight men — that is, it was as large 
as a ship's forecastle; had a door at the side, and a vent-hole at top. 
They covered it with Oahu mats, for a carpet; stopped up the vent- 
hole in bad weather, and made it their head-quarters. It was now 
inhabited by as many as a dozen or twenty men, who lived there in 
complete idleness — drinking, playing cards, and carousing in every 
way. They bought a bullock once a week, which kept them in meat, 
and one of them went up to the town every day to get fruit, liquor, 
and provisions. Besides this, they had bought a cask of ship-bread, 
and a barrel of flour from the Lagoda, before she sailed. There they 

lived, having a grand time, and caring for nobody. Captain T 

was anxious to get three or four of them to come on board the Pil- 
grim, as we were so much diminished in numbers; and went up to 
the oven and spent an hour or two trying to negotiate with them. 
One of them, — a finely built, active, strong and intelligent fellow, — 
who was a sort of king among them, acted as spokesman. He was 
called Mannini, — or rather, out of compliment to his known impor- 
tance and influence, Mr. Mannini — and was known all over Cali- 
fornia. Through him, the captain offered them fifteen dollars a 
month, and one month's pay in advance; but it was like throwing 
pearls before swine, or rather, carrying coals to Newcastle. So long 



140 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

as they had money, they would not work for fifty dollars a month, 
and when their money was gone, they would work for ten. 

"What do you do here, Mr. Mannini?"^ said the captain. 

"Oh, we play cards, get drunk, smoke — do anything we're a 
mind to." 

"Don't you want to come aboard and work?" 

"Aole! aole make ma\e mahpu i \a hana. Now, got plenty 
money; no good, work. Mamule, money pau — all gone. Ah! very 
good, work! — maikai, hana hana null" 

"But you'll spend all your money in this way," said the captain. 

"Aye! me know that. By-'em-by money pau — all gone; then Ka- 
naka work plenty." 

This was a hopeless case, and the captain left them, to wait pa- 
tiently until their money was gone. 

We discharged our hides and tallow, and in about a week were 
ready to set sail again for the windward. We unmoored, and got 
everything ready, when the captain made another attempt upon the 
oven. This time he had more regard to the "mollia tempora fandi," 
and succeeded very well. He got Mr. Mannini in his interest, and 
as the shot was getting low in the locker, prevailed upon him and 
three others to come on board with their chests and baggage, and 
sent a hasty summons to me and the boy to come ashore with our 
things, and join the gang at the hide-house. This was unexpected 
to me; but anything in the way of variety I liked; so we got ready, 
and were pulled ashore. I stood on the beach while the brig got 
under weigh, and watched her until she rounded the point, and 
then went up to the hide-house to take up my quarters for a few 
months. 

'The letter i in the Sandwich Island language is sounded like e in the English. 



CHAPTER XIX 

The Sandwich Islanders — Hide-curing — Wood-cutting — Rattle- 
snakes — New-comers 

HERE was a change in my life as complete as it had been 
sudden. In the twinkling of an eye, I was transformed 
from a sailor into a "beach-comber" and a hide-curer; yet 
the novelty and the comparative independence of the life were not 
unpleasant. Our hide-house was a large building, made of rough 
boards, and intended to hold forty thousand hides. In one corner 
of it, a small room was parted off, in which four berths were made, 
where we were to live, with mother earth for our floor. It con- 
tained a table, a small locker for pots, spoons, plates, etc., and a 
small hole cut to let in the light. Here we put our chests, threw 
our bedding into the berths, and took up our quarters. Over our 
head was another small room, in which Mr. Russell lived, who had 
charge of the hide-house; the same man who was for a time an 
officer of the Pilgrim. There he lived in solitary grandeur; eating 
and sleeping alone, (and these were his principal occupations,) and 
communing with his own dignity. The boy was to act as cook; 
while myself, a giant of a Frenchman named Nicholas, and four 
Sandwich Islanders, were to cure the hides. Sam, the Frenchman, 
and myself, lived together in the room, and the four Sandwich 
Islanders worked and ate with us, but generally slept at the oven. 
My new messmate, Nicholas, was the most immense man that I 
had ever seen in my life. He came on the coast in a vessel which 
was afterwards wrecked, and now let himself out to the different 
houses to cure hides. He was considerably over six feet, and of a 
frame so large that he might have been shown for a curiosity. But 
the most remarkable thing about him was his feet. They were so 
large that he could not find a pair of shoes in California to fit him, 
and was obliged to send to Oahu for a pair; and when he got them, 
he was compelled to wear them down at the heel. He told me once, 

141 



142 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

himself, that he was wrecked in an American brig on the Goodwin 
Sands, and was sent up to London, to the charge of the American 
consul, without clothing to his back or shoes to his feet, and was 
obliged to go about London streets in his stocking feet three or four 
days, in the month of January, until the consul could have a pair 
of shoes made for him. His strength was in proportion to his size, 
and his ignorance to his strength — "strong as an ox, and ignorant 
as strong." He neither knew how to read nor write. He had been 
to sea from a boy, and had seen all kinds of service, and been in 
every kind of vessel: merchantmen, men-of-war, privateers, and 
slavers; and from what I could gather from his accounts of himself, 
and from what he once told me, in confidence, after we had become 
better acquainted, he had even been in worse business than slave- 
trading. He was once tried for his life in Charleston, South Caro- 
lina, and though acquitted, yet he was so frightened that he never 
would show himself in the United States again; and I could not 
persuade him that he could never be tried a second time for the 
same offence. He said he had got safe off from the breakers, and was 
too good a sailor to risk his timbers again. 

Though I knew what his life had been, yet I never had the 
slightest fear of him. We always got along very well together, and, 
though so much stronger and larger than I, he showed a respect for 
my education, and for what he had heard of my situation before 
coming to sea. "I'll be good friends with you," he used to say, "for 
by-and-by you'll come out here captain, and then you'll haze me 
well!" By holding well together, we kept the officer in good order, 
for he was evidently afraid of Nicholas, and never ordered us, ex- 
cept when employed upon the hides. My other companions, the 
Sandwich Islanders, deserve particular notice. 

A considerable trade has been carried on for several years between 
CaUfornia and the Sandwich Islands, and most of the vessels are 
manned with Islanders; who, as they, for the most part, sign no 
articles, leave whenever they choose, and let themselves out to cure 
hides at San Diego, and to supply the places of the men of the 
American vessels while on the coast. In this way, quite a colony 
of them had become settled at San Diego, as their headquarters. 
Some of these had recently gone off in the Ayacucho and Loriotte, 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I43 

and the Pilgrim had taken Mr. Mannini and three others, so that 
there were not more than twenty left. Of these, four were on pay 
at the Ayacucho's house, four more working with us, and the rest 
were living at the oven in a quiet way; for their money was nearly 
gone, and they must make it last until some other vessel came down 
to employ them. 

During the four months that I lived here, I got well acquainted 
with all of them, and took the greatest pains to become familiar 
with their language, habits, and characters. Their language, I could 
only learn, orally, for they had not any books among them, though 
many of them had been taught to read and write by the mission- 
aries at home. They spoke a little English, and by a sort of com- 
promise, a mixed language was used on the beach, which could be 
understood by all. The long name of Sandwich Islanders is dropped, 
and they are called by the whites, all over the Pacific ocean, "Ka- 
nakas," from a word in their own language which they apply to 
themselves, and to all South Sea Islanders, in distinction from 
whites, whom they call "Haole." This name, "Kanaka," they answer 
to, both collectively and individually. Their proper names, in their 
own language, being difficult to pronounce and remember, they are 
called by any names which the captains or crews may choose to 
give them. Some are called after the vessel they are in; others by 
common names, as Jack, Tom, Bill; and some have fancy names, 
as Ban-yan, Fore-top, Rope-yarn, PeUcan, etc., etc. Of the four who 
worked at our house one was named "Mr. Bingham," after the 
missionary at Oahu; another, Hope, after a vessel that he had been 
in; a third, Tom Davis, the name of his first captain; and the fourth, 
Pelican, from his fancied resemblance to that bird. Then there was 
Lagoda-Jack, California-Bill, etc., etc. But by whatever names they 
might be called, they were the most interesting, intelligent, and kind- 
hearted people that I ever fell in with. I felt a positive attachment 
for almost all of them; and many of them I have, to this time, a 
feeling for, which would lead me to go a great way for the mere 
pleasure of seeing them, and which will always make me feel a 
strong interest in the mere name of a Sandwich Islander. 

Tom Davis knew how to read, write, and cipher in common arith- 
metic; had been to the United States, and spoke English quite well. 



144 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

His education was as good as that of three-quarters of the Yankees 
in California, and his manners and principles a good deal better, 
and he was so quick of apprehension that he might have been taught 
navigation, and the elements of many of the sciences, with the most 
perfect ease. Old "Mr. Bingham" spoke very little English — almost 
none, and neither knew how to read nor write; but he was the best' 
hearted old fellow in the world. He must have been over fifty years 
of age, and had two of his front teeth knocked out, which was done 
by his parents as a sign of grief at the death of Kamehameha, the 
great king of the Sandwich Islands. We used to tell him that he 
ate Captain Cook, and lost his teeth in that way. That was the only 
thing that ever made him angry. He would always be quite excited 
at that; and say — "Aole!" (no.) "Me no eat Captain Cookl Me 
pikinini — small — so high — no more! My father see Captain Cook! 
Me — no!" None of them liked to have anything said about Captain 
Cook, for the sailors all believe that he was eaten, and that, they 
cannot endure to be taunted with. — "New Zealand Kanaka eat 
white man; — Sandwich Island Kanaka, — no. Sandwich Island Ka^ 
naka ua li\e pu na haole — all 'e same a' you!" 

Mr. Bingham was a sort of patriarch among them, and was always 
treated with great respect, though he had not the education and 
energy which gave Mr. Mannini his power over them. I have spent 
hours in talking with this old fellow about Kamehameha, the Char- 
lemagne of the Sandwich Islands; his son and successor Riho Riho, 
who died in England, and was brought to Oahu in the frigate 
Blonde, Captain Lord Byron, and whose funeral he remembered 
perfectly; and also about the customs of his country in his boyhood, 
and the changes which had been made by the missionaries. He 
never would allow that human beings had been eaten there; and, 
indeed, it always seemed like an insult to tell so affectionate, intelli- 
gent, and civilized a class of men, that such barbarities had been 
practised in their own country within the recollection of many of 
them. Certainly, the history of no people on the globe can show 
anything like so rapid an advance. I would have trusted my life 
and my fortune in the hands of any one of these people; and cer- 
tainly had I wished for a favor or act of sacrifice, I would have gone 
to them all, in turn, before I should have applied to one of my own 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I45 

countrymen on the coast, and should have expected to have seen 
it done, before my own countrymen had got half through counting 
the cost. Their costumes, and manner of treating one another, shovp 
a simple, primitive generosity, which is truly delightful; and which 
is often a reproach to our own people. Whatever one has, they all 
have. Money, food, clothes, they share with one another; even to 
the last piece of tobacco to put in their pipes. I once heard old Mr. 
Bingham say, with the highest indignation, to a Yankee trader who 
was trying to persuade him to keep his money to himself — "No! We 
no all 'e same a' you! — Suppose one got money, all got money. You; 
— suppose one got money — lock him up in chest. — No good!" — 
"Kanaka all 'e same a' one!" This principle they carry so far, that 
none of them will eat anything in the sight of others without 
offering it all round. I have seen one of them break a biscuit, which 
had been given him, into five parts, at a time when I knew he was 
on a very short allowance, as there was but little to eat on the 
beach. 

My favorite among all of them, and one who was liked by both 
officers and men, and by whomever he had anything to do with, was 
Hope. He was an intelligent, kind-hearted little fellow, and I never 
saw him angry, though I knew him for more than a year, and have 
seen him imposed upon by white people, and abused by insolent oflS- 
cers of vessels. He was always civil, and always ready, and never 
forgot a benefit. I once took care of him when he was ill, getting 
medicines from the ship's chests, when no captain or officer would 
do anything for him, and he never forgot it. Every Kanaka has 
one particular friend, whom he considers himself bound to do 
everything for, and with whom he has a sort of contract, — an alli- 
ance offensive and defensive, — and for whom he will often make 
the greatest sacrifices. This friend they call ai\ane; and for such 
did Hope adopt me. I do not believe I could have wanted anything 
which he had, that he would not have given me. In return for this, 
I was always his friend among the Americans, and used to teach 
him letters and numbers; for he left home before he had learned 
how to read. He was very curious about Boston (as they call the 
United States) ; asking many questions about the houses, the people, 
etc., and always wished to have the pictures in books explained to 



146 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

him. They were all astonishingly quick in catching at explanations, 
and many things which I had thought it utterly impossible to make 
them understand, they often seized in an instant, and asked ques- 
tions which showed that they knew enough to make them wish to 
go farther. The pictures of steamboats and railroad cars, in the 
columns of some newspapers which I had, gave me great difficulty 
to explain. The grading of the road, the rails, the construction of 
the carriages, they could easily understand, but the motion produced 
by steam was a little too refined for them. I attempted to show it 
to them once by an experiment upon the cook's coppers, but failed; 
probably as much from my own ignorance as from their want of 
apprehension; and, I have no doubt, left them with about as clear 
an idea of the principle as I had myself. This difficulty, of course, 
existed in the same force with the steamboats and all I could do was 
to give them some account of the results, in the shape of speed; for, 
failing in the reason, I had to fall back upon the fact. In my account 
of the speed I was supported by Tom, who had been to Nantucket, 
and seen a little steamboat which ran over to New Bedford. 

A map of the world, which I once showed them, kept their atten- 
tion for hours; those who knew how to read pointing out the places 
and referring to me for the distances. I remember being much 
amused with a question which Hope asked me. Pointing to the large 
irregular place which is always left blank round the poles, to 
denote that it is undiscovered, he looked up and asked — "Pau?" 
(Done? ended?) 

The system of naming the streets and numbering the houses, they 
easily understood, and the utility of it. They had a great desire to 
see America, but were afraid of doubling Cape Horn, for they suffer 
much in cold weather, and had heard dreadful accounts of the Cape, 
from those of their number who had been round it. 

They smoke a great deal, though not much at a time; using pipes 
with large bowls, and very short stems, or no stems at all. These, 
they light, and putting them to their mouths, take a long draught, 
getting their mouths as full as they can hold, and their cheeks dis- 
tended, and then let it slowly out through their mouths and nostrils. 
The pipe is then passed to others, who draw, in the same manner, 
one pipe-full serving for half a dozen. They never take short, con- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I47 

tinuous draughts, like Europeans, but one of these "Oahu puffs," as 
the sailors call them, serves for an hour or two, until some one else 
lights his pipe, and it is passed round in the same manner. Each 
Kanaka on the beach had a pipe, flint, steel, tinder, a hand of tobacco, 
and a jack-knife, which he always carried about with him. 

That which strikes a stranger most peculiarly is their style of sing- 
ing. They run on, in a low, guttural, monotonous sort of chant, 
their lips and tongues seeming hardly to move, and the sounds mod- 
ulated solely in the throat. There is very little tune to it, and the 
words, so far as I could learn, are extempore. They sing about 
persons and things which are around them, and adopt this method 
when they do not wish to be understood by any but themselves; 
and it is very effectual, for with the most careful attention I never 
could detect a word that I knew. I have often heard Mr. Mannini, 
who was the most noted improvisatore among them, sing for an 
hour together, when at work in the midst of Americans and Eng- 
lishmen; and, by the occasional shouts and laughter of the Kanakas, 
who were at a distance, it was evident that he was singing about 
the different men that he was at work with. They have great powers 
of ridicule, and are excellent mimics; many of them discovering and 
imitating the peculiarities of our own people, before we had seen 
them ourselves. 

These were the people with whom I was to spend a few months; 
and who, with the exception of the officer, Nicholas the Frenchman, 
and the boy, made the whole population of the beach. I ought, per- 
haps, to except the dogs, for they were an important part of our 
settlement. Some of the first vessels brought dogs out with them, 
who, for convenience, were left ashore, and there multiplied, until 
they came to be a great people. While I was on the beach, the 
average number was about forty, and probably an equal, or greater 
number are drowned, or killed in some other way, every year. They 
are very useful in guarding the beach, the Indians being afraid to 
come down at night; for it was impossible for any one to get within 
half a mile of the hide-houses without a general alarm. The father 
of the colony, old Sachem, so called from the ship in which he was 
brought out, died while I was there, full of years, and was honorably 
buried. Hogs, and a few chickens, were the rest of the animal tribe, 



148 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

and formed, like the dogs, a common company, though they were all 
known and marked, and usually fed at the houses to which they 
belonged. 

I had been but a few hours on the beach, and the Pilgrim was 
hardly out of sight, when the cry of "Sail ho!" was raised, and a 
small hermaphrodite brig rounded the point, bore up into the har- 
bor, and came to anchor. It was the Mexican brig Fazio, which we 
had left at San Pedro, and which had come down to land her tallow, 
try it all over, and make new bags, and then take it in, and leave the 
coast. They moored ship, erected their try-works on shore, put up a 
small tent, in which they all lived, and commenced operations. They 
made an addition to our society, and we spent many evenings in 
their tent, where, amid the Babel of English, Spanish, French, Indian, 
and Kanaka, we found some words that we could understand in 
common. 

The morning after my landing, I began the duties of hide-curing. 
In order to understand these, it will be necessary to give the whole 
history of a hide, from the time it is taken from a bullock until it 
is put on board the vessel to be carried to Boston. When the hide 
is taken from the bullock, holes are cut round it, near the edge, by 
which it is staked out to dry. In this manner it dries without shrink- 
ing. After they are thus dried in the sun, they are received by the 
vessels, and brought down to the depot at San Diego. The vessels 
land them, and leave them in large piles near the houses. 

Then begins the hide-curer's duty. The first thing is to put them 
in soak. This is done by carrying them down at low tide, and 
making them fast, in small piles, by ropes, and letting the tide come 
up and cover them. Every day we put in soak twenty-five for each 
man, which, with us, made an hundred and fifty. There they lie 
forty-eight hours, when they are taken out, and rolled up, in wheel- 
barrows, and thrown into the vats. These vats contain brine, made 
very strong; being sea-water, with great quantities of salt thrown 
in. This pickles the hides, and in this they lie forty-eight hours; the 
use of the sea-water, into which they are first put, being merely to 
soften and clean them. From these vats, they are taken, and lie on a 
platform twenty-four hours, and then are spread upon the ground, 
and carefully stretched and staked out, so that they may dry smooth. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 49 

After they were staked, and while yet wet and soft, we used to go 
upon them with our knives, and carefully cut off all the bad parts: — 
the pieces of meat and fat, which would corrupt and infect the whole 
if stowed away in a vessel for many months, the large flippers, the 
ears, and all other parts which would prevent close stowage. This 
was the most difficult part of our duty: as it required much skill to 
take everything necessary off and not to cut or injure the hide. It 
was also a long process, as six of us had to clean an hundred and 
fifty, most of which required a great deal to be done to them, as the 
Spaniards are very careless in skinning their cattle. Then, too, as we 
cleaned them while they were staked out, we were obliged to kneel 
down upon them, which always gives beginners the back-ache. The 
first day, I was so slow and awkward that I cleaned only eight; at 
the end of a few days I doubled my number; and in a fortnight or 
three weeks, could keep up with the others, and clean my proportion 
— twenty-five. 

This cleaning must be got through with before noon; for by that 
time they get too dry. After the sun has been upon them a few 
hours, they are carefully gone over with scrapers, to get off all the 
grease which the sun brings out. This being done, the stakes are 
pulled up, and the hides carefully doubled, with the hair side out, 
and left to dry. About the middle of the afternoon they are turned 
upon the other side, and at sundown piled up and covered over. The 
next day they are spread out and opened again, and at night, if 
fully dry, are thrown upon a long, horizontal pole, five at a time, 
and beat with flails. This takes all the dust from them. Then, being 
salted, scraped, cleaned, dried, and beaten, they are stowed away in 
the house. Here ends their history, except that they are taken out 
again when the vessel is ready to go home, beaten, stowed away 
on board, carried to Boston, tanned, made into shoes and other 
articles for which leather is used; and many of them, very probably, 
in the end, brought back again to California in the shape of shoes, 
and worn out in pursuit of other bullocks, or in the curing of 
other hides. 

By putting an hundred and fifty in soak every day, we had the 
same number at each stage of curing, on each day; so that we had, 
every day, the same work to do upon the same number: an hundred 



150 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

and fifty to put in soak; an hundred and fifty to wash out and put 
in the vat; the same number to haul from the vat and put on the 
platform to drain; the same number to spread and stake out and 
clean; and the same number to beat and stow away in the house. 
I ought to except Sunday; for, by a prescription which no cap- 
tain or agent has yet ventured to break in upon, Sunday has 
been a day of leisure on the beach for years. On Saturday night, 
the hides, in every stage of progress, are carefully covered up, and 
not uncovered until Monday morning. On Sundays we had abso- 
lutely no work to do, unless it was to kill a bullock, which was sent 
down for our use about once a week, and sometimes came on Sun- 
day. Another good arrangement was, that we had just so much 
work to do, and when that was through, the time was our own. 
Knowing this, we worked hard, and needed no driving. We "turned 
out" every morning at the first signs of daylight, and allowing a 
short time, about eight o'clock, for breakfast, generally got through 
our labor between one and two o'clock, when we dined, and had the 
rest of the time to ourselves; until just before sundown, when we 
beat the dry hides and put them in the house, and covered over 
all the others. By this means we had about three hours to ourselves 
every afternoon; and at sundown we had our supper, and our work 
was done for the day. There was no watch to stand, and no topsails 
to reef. The evenings we generally spent at one another's houses, 
and I often went up and spent an hour or so at the oven; which was 
called the "Kanaka Hotel," and the "Oahu Coffee-house." Imme- 
diately after dinner we usually took a short siesta to make up for our 
early rising, and spent the rest of the afternoon according to our 
own fancies. I generally read, wrote, and made or mended clothes; 
for necessity, the mother of invention, had taught me these two 
latter arts. The Kanakas went up to the oven, and spent the time 
in sleeping, talking, and smoking; and my messmate, Nicholas, 
who neither knew how to read or write, passed away the time by 
a long siesta, two or three smokes with his pipe, and a paseo to the 
other houses. This leisure time is never interfered with, for the 
captains know that the men earn it by working hard and fast, and 
that if they interfered with it, the men could easily make their 
twenty-five hides apiece last through the day. We were pretty inde- 
pendent, too, for the master of the house — "capitan de la casa" — had 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I5I 

nothing to say to us, except when we were at work on the hides, and 
although we could not go up to the town without his permission, 
this was seldom or never refused. 

The great weight of the wet hides, which we were obHged to roll 
about in wheelbarrows; the continual stooping upon those which 
were pegged out to be cleaned; and the smell of the vats, into which 
we were often obliged to get, knee-deep, to press down the hides; all 
made the work disagreeable and fatiguing; — ^but we soon got hard- 
ened to it, and the comparative independence of our life reconciled 
us to it; for there was nobody to haze us and find fault; and when 
we got through, we had only to wash and change our clothes, and 
our time was our own. There was, however, one exception to the 
time's being our own; which was, that on two afternoons of every 
week we were obliged to go off and get wood, for the cook to use 
in the galley. Wood is very scarce in the vicinity of San Diego; 
there being no trees of any size, for miles. In the town, the inhabi- 
tants burn the small wood which grows in thickets, and for which 
they send out Indians, in large numbers, every few days. For- 
tunately, the climate is so fine that they had no need of a fire in their 
houses, and only use it for cooking. With us the getting of wood 
was a great trouble; for all that in the vicinity of the houses had 
been cut down, and we were obliged to go off a mile or two, and 
to carry it some distance on our backs, as we could not get the 
hand-cart up the hills and over the uneven places. Two afternoons 
in the week, generally Monday and Thursday, as soon as we had got 
through dinner, we started off for the bush, each of us furnished 
with a hatchet and a long piece of rope, and dragging the hand-cart 
behind us, and followed by the whole colony of dogs, who were 
always ready for the bush, and were half mad whenever they saw 
our preparations. We went with the hand-cart as far as we could 
conveniently drag it, and leaving it in an open, conspicuous place, 
separated ourselves; each taking his own course, and looking about 
for some good place to begin upon. Frequently, we had to go nearly 
a mile from the hand-cart before we could find any fit place. Having 
lighted upon a good thicket, the next thing was to clear away the 
under-brush, and have fair play at the trees. These trees are seldom 
more than five or six feet high, and the highest that I ever saw in 
these expeditions could not have been more than twelve; so that. 



152 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

with lopping off the branches and clearing away the underwood, we 
had a good deal of cutting to do for a very little wood. Having cut 
enough for a "back-load," the next thing was to make it well fast 
with the rope, and heaving the bundle upon our backs, and taking 
the hatchet in hand, to walk off, up hill and down dale, to the hand- 
cart. Two good back-loads apiece filled the hand-cart; and that was 
each one's proportion. When each had brought down his second 
load, we filled the hand-cart, and took our way again slowly back, 
and unloading, covering the hides for the night, and getting our sup- 
per, finished the day's work. 

These wooding excursions had always a mixture of something 
rather pleasant in them. Roaming about in the woods with hatchet 
in hand, like a backwoodsman, followed by a troop of dogs; starting 
up of birds, snakes, hares and foxes, and examining the various kinds 
of trees, flowers, and birds' nests, was at least, a change from the 
monotonous drag and pull on shipboard. Frequently, too, we 
had some amusement and adventure. The coati, of which I have 
before spoken, — a sort of mixture of the fox and wolf breeds, — fierce 
little animals, with bushy tails and large heads, and a quick, sharp 
bark, abound here, as in all other parts of California. These, the 
dogs were very watchful for, and whenever they saw them, started 
off in full run after them. We had many fine chases; yet, although 
our dogs ran finely, the rascals generally escaped. They are a match 
for the dog, — one to one, — ^but as the dogs generally went in squads, 
there was seldom a fair fight. A smaller dog, belonging to us, once 
attacked a coati, single, and got a good deal worsted, and might 
perhaps have been killed had we not come to his assistance. We 
had, however, one dog which gave them a good deal of trouble, and 
many hard runs. He was a fine, tall fellow, and united strength 
and agility better than any dog that I have ever seen. He was born 
at the Islands, his father being an English mastiff, and his mother a 
greyhound. He had the high head, long legs, narrow body, and 
springing gait of the latter, and the heavy jaw, thick jowls, and 
strong fore-quarters of the mastiff. When he was brought to San 
Diego, an English sailor said that he looked, about the face pre- 
cisely like the Duke of Wellington, whom he had once seen at the 
Tower; and, indeed, there was something about him which resem- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 53 

bled the portraits of the Duke. From this time he was christened 
"Welly," and became the favorite and bully of the beach. He always 
led the dogs by several yards in the chase, and had killed two coati 
at different times in single combats. We often had fine sport with 
these fellows. A quick, sharp bark from a coati, and in an instant 
every dog was at the height of his speed. A few moments made up 
for an unfair start, and gave each dog his relative place. Welly, at the 
head, seemed almost to skim over the bushes; and after him came 
Fanny, Feliciana, Childers, and the other fleet ones, — the spaniels 
and terriers; and then behind, followed the heavy corps — ^bulldogs, 
etc., for we had every breed. Pursuit by us was in vain, and in about 
half an hour a few of them would come panting and straggling 
back. 

Beside the coati, the dogs sometimes made prizes of rabbits and 
hares, which are very plentiful here, and great numbers of which 
we often shot for our dinners. There was another animal that I was 
not so much disposed to find amusement from, and that was the rat- 
tlesnake. These are very abundant here, especially during the spring 
of the year. The latter part of the time that I was on shore, I did not 
meet with so many, but for the first two months we seldom went 
into "the bush" without one of our number starting some of them. 
The first that I ever saw, I remember perfectly well. I had left my 
companions, and was beginning to clear away a fine clump of trees, 
when just in the midst of the thicket, not more than eight yards from 
me, one of these fellows set up his hiss. It is a sharp, continuous 
sound, and resembles very much the letting off of the steam from 
the small pipe of a steamboat, except that it is on a smaller scale. I 
knew, by the sound of an axe, that one of my companions was near, 
and called out to him, to let him know what I had fallen upon. 
He took it very lightly, and as he seemed inclined to laugh at me for 
being afraid, I determined to keep my place. I knew that so long 
as I could hear the rattle, I was safe, for these snakes never make a 
noise when they are in motion. Accordingly, I kept at my work, 
and the noise which I made with cutting and breaking the trees 
kept him in alarm; so that I had the rattle to show me his where- 
abouts. Once or twice the noise stopped for a short time, which gave 
me a little uneasiness, and retreating a few steps, I threw something 



154 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

into the bush, at which he would set his rattle agoing; and finding 
that he had not moved from his first place, I was easy again. In this 
way I continued at my work until I had cut a full load, never suffer- 
ing him to be quiet for a moment. Having cut my load, I strapped 
it together, and got everything ready for starting. I felt that I could 
now call the others without the imputation of being afraid; and 
went in search of them. In a few minutes we were all collected, and 
began an attack upon the bush. The big Frenchman, who was the 
one that I had called to at first, I found as little inclined to approach 
the snake as I had been. The dogs, too, seemed afraid of the rattle, 
and kept up a barking at a safe distance; but the Kanakas showed 
no fear, and getting long sticks, went into the bush, and keeping a 
bright look-out, stood within a few feet of him. One or two blows 
struck near him, and a few stones thrown, started him, and we lost 
his track, and had the pleasant consciousness that he might be 
directly under our feet. By throwing stones and chips in different 
directions, we made him spring his rattle again, and began another 
attack. This time we drove him into the clear ground, and saw 
him gliding off, with head and tail erect, when a stone, well aimed, 
knocked him over the bank, down a declivity of fifteen or twenty 
feet, and stretched him at his length. Having made sure of him, 
by a few more stones, we went down, and one of the Kanakas cut 
off his rattle. These rattles vary in number it is said, according to 
the age of the snake; though the Indians think they indicate the 
number of creatures they have killed. We always preserved them as 
trophies, and at the end of the summer had quite a number. None 
of our people were ever bitten by them, but one of our dogs died of 
a bite, and another was supposed to have been bitten, but recovered. 
We had no remedy for the bite, though it was said that the Indians 
of the country had, and the Kanakas professed to have an herb 
which would cure it, but it was fortunately never brought to the 
test. 

Hares and rabbits, as I said before, were abundant, and, during the 
winter months, the waters are covered with wild ducks and geese. 
Crows, too, were very numerous, and frequently alighted in great 
numbers upon our hides, picking at the pieces of dried meat and fat. 
Bears and wolves are numerous in the upper parts, and in the in- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 55 

terior, (and, indeed, a man was killed by a bear within a few miles 
of San Pedro, while we were there,) but there were none in our 
immediate neighborhood. The only other animals were horses. 
Over a dozen of these were owned by different people on the beach, 
and were allowed to run loose among the hills, with a long lasso 
attached to them, and pick up feed wherever they could find it. We 
were sure of seeing them once a day, for there was no water among 
the hills, and they were obliged to come down to the well which 
had been dug upon the beach. These horses were bought at, from 
two, to six and eight dollars apiece, and were held very much as 
common property. We generally kept one fast to one of the houses 
every day, so that we could mount him and catch any of the others. 
Some of them were really fine animals, and gave us many good runs 
up to the Presidio and over the country. 



CHAPTER XX 
Leisure — ^News from Home — "Burning the Water" 

^FTER we had been a few weeks on shore, and had begun to 
/ \ feel broken into the regularity of our life, its monotony was 
A~ JLinterrupted by the arrival of two vessels from the windward. 
We were sitting at dinner in our little room, when we heard the cry 
of "Sail ho!" This, we had learned, did not always signify a Vessel, 
but was raised whenever a woman was seen coming down from 
the town; or a squaw, or an ox-cart, or anything unusual, hove in 
sight upon the road; so we took no notice of it. But it soon became 
so loud and general from all parts of the beach, that we were led 
to go to the door; and there, sure enough, were two sails coming 
round the point, and leaning over from the strong north-west wind, 
which blows down the coast every afternoon. The headmost was a 
ship, and the other, a brig. Everybody was alive on the beach, and 
all manner of conjectures were abroad. Some said it was the Pil- 
grim, with the Boston ship, which we were expecting; but we soon 
saw that the brig was not the Pilgrim, and the ship with her stump 
top-gallant masts and rusty sides, could not be a dandy Boston 
Indiaman. As they drew nearer, we soon discovered the high poop 
and top-gallant forecastle, and other marks of the Italian ship Rosa, 
and the brig proved to be the Catalina, which we saw at Santa Bar- 
bara, just arrived from Valparaiso. They came to anchor, moored 
ship, and commenced discharging hides and tallow. The Rosa had 
purchased the house occupied by the Lagoda, and the Catalina took 
the other spare one between ours and the Ayacucho's, so that, now, 
each one was occupied, and the beach, for several days, was all alive. 
The Catalina had several Kanakas on board, who were immediately 
besieged by the others, and carried up to the oven, where they had a 
long pow-wow, and a smoke. Two Frenchmen, who belonged to the 
Rosa's crew, came in, every evening, to see Nicholas; and from them 

156 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 57 

we learned that the Pilgrim was at San Pedro, and was the only other 
vessel now on the coast. Several of the -Italians slept on shore at their 
hide-house; and there, and at the tent in which the Fazio's crew 
lived, we had some very good singing almost every evening. The 
Italians sang a variety of songs — barcarollas, provincial airs, etc.; in 
several of which I recognized parts of our favorite operas and senti- 
mental songs. They often joined in a song, taking all the different 
parts; which produced a fine effect, as many of them had good 
voices, and all seemed to sing with spirit and feeling. One young 
man, in particular, had a falsetto as clear as a clarionet. 

The greater part of the crews of the vessels came ashore every 
evening, and we passed the time in going about from one house to 
another, and listening to all manner of languages. The Spanish was 
the common ground upon which we all met; for every one knew 
more or less of that. We had now, out of forty or fifty, representa- 
tives from almost every nation under the sun: two Englishmen, 
three Yankees, two Scotchmen, two Welshmen, one Irishman, three 
Frenchmen (two of whom were Normans, and the third from Gas- 
cony,) one Dutchman, one Austrian, two or three Spaniards, (from 
old Spain,) half a dozen Spanish-Americans and half-breeds, two 
native Indians from Chili and the Island of Chiloe, one Negro, one 
Mulatto, about twenty Italians, from all parts of Italy, as many more 
Sandwich Islanders, one Otaheitan, and one Kanaka from the Mar- 
quesas Islands. 

The night before the vessels were ready to sail, all the Europeans 
united and had an entertainment at the Rosa's hide-house, and we 
had songs of every nation and tongue. A German gave us "Och! 
mein lieber Augustin!" the three Frenchmen roared through the 
Marseilles Hymn; the English and Scotchmen gave us "Rule Britan- 
nia," and "Wha'll be King but Charlie?" the Italians and Spaniards 
screamed through some national affairs, for which I was none the 
wiser; and we three Yankees made an attempt at the "Star-spangled 
Banner." After these national tributes had been paid, the Austrian 
gave us a very pretty little love-song, and the Frenchmen sang a 
spirited thing called "Sentinelle! O prenez garde a vous!" and then 
followed the melange which might have been expected. When I 



158 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

left them, the aguardiente and annisou was pretty well in their 
heads, and they were all singing and talking at once, and their 
peculiar national oaths were getting as plenty as pronouns. 

The next day, the two vessels got under weigh for the windward, 
and left us in quiet possession of the beach. Our numbers were 
somewhat enlarged by the opening of the new houses, and the 
society of the beach a little changed. In charge of the Catalina's 
house, was an old Scotchman, who, like most of his countrymen, had 
a pretty good education, and, like many of them, was rather prag- 
matical, and had a ludicrously solemn conceit. He employed his 
time in taking care of his pigs, chickens, turkeys, dogs, etc., and 
in smoking his long pipe. Everything was as neat as a pin in the 
house, and he was as regular in his hours as a chronometer, but as 
he kept very much by himself, was not a great addition to our 
society. He hardly spent a cent all the time he was on the beach, 
and the others said he was no shipmate. He had been a petty officer 
on board the British frigate Dublin, Capt. Lord James Townshend, 
and had great ideas of his own importance. The man in charge of 
the Rosa's house was an Austrian by birth, but spoke, read, and 
wrote four languages with ease and correctness. German was his 
native tongue, but being born near the borders of Italy, and having 
sailed out of Genoa, the Italian was almost as familiar to him as 
his own language. He was six years on board of an English man- 
of-war, where he learned to speak our language with ease, and also 
to read and write it. He had been several years in Spanish vessels, 
and had acquired that language so well, that he could read any 
books in it. He was between forty and fifty years of age, and was 
a singular mixture of the man-of-war's-man and Puritan. He talked 
a great deal about propriety and steadiness, and gave good advice 
to the youngsters and Kanakas, but seldom went up to the town, 
without coming down "three sheets in the wind." One holyday, he 
and old Robert (the Scotchman from the Catalina) went up to the 
town, and got so cozy, talking over old stories and giving one an- 
other good advice, that they came down double-backed, on a horse, 
and both rolled off into the sand as soon as the horse stopped. This 
put an end to their pretensions, and they never heard the last of it 
from the rest of the men. On the night of the entertainment at the 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 59 

Rosa's house, I saw old Schmidt, (that was the Austrian's name) 
standing up by a hogshead, holding on by both hands, and calling 
out to himself — "Hold on, Schmidt! hold on, my good fellow, or 
you'll be on your back!" Still, he was an intelligent, good-natured 
old fellow, and had a chest-full of books, which he wiUingly lent 
me to read. In the same house with him was a Frenchman and an 
Englishman; the latter a regular-built "man-of-war Jack;" a thorough 
seaman; a hearty, generous fellow; and, at the same time, a drunken, 
dissolute dog. He made it a point to get drunk once a fortnight, 
(when he always managed to sleep on the road, and have his money 
stolen from him,) and to battle the Frenchman once a week. These, 
with a Chilian, and a half a dozen Kanakas, formed the addition to 
our company. 

In about six weeks from the time when the Pilgrim sailed, we had 
got all the hides which she left us cured and stowed away; and hav- 
ing cleared up the ground, and emptied the vats, and set everything 
in order, had nothing more to do until she should come down again, 
but to supply ourselves with wood. Instead of going twice a week 
for this purpose, we determined to give one whole week to getting 
wood, and then we should have enough to last us half through the 
summer. Accordingly, we started off every morning, after an early 
breakfast, with our hatchets in hand, and cut wood until the sun 
was over the point, — which was our only mark of time, as there was 
not a watch on the beach — and then came back to dinner, and after 
dinner, started off again with our hand-cart and ropes, and carted 
and "backed" it down, until sunset. This, we kept up for a week, 
until we had collected several cords, — enough to last us for six or 
eight weeks — when we "knocked off" altogether, much to my joy; 
for, though I liked straying in the woods, and cutting, very well, 
yet the backing the wood for so great a distance, over an uneven 
country, was, without exception, the hardest work I had ever done. 
I usually had to kneel down and contrive to heave the load, which 
was well strapped together, upon my back, and then rise up and 
start off with it up the hills and down the vales, sometimes through 
thickets, — the rough points sticking into the skin, and tearing the 
clothes, so that, at the end of the week, I had hardly a whole shirt 
to my back. 



l6o RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

We were now through all our work, and had nothing more to do 
until the Pilgrim should come down again. We had nearly got 
through our provisions too, as well as our work; for our officer had 
been very wasteful of them, and the tea, flour, sugar, and molasses, 
were all gone. We suspected him of sending them up to the town; 
and he always treated the squaws with molasses, when they came 
down to the beach. Finding wheat-coffee and dry bread rather 
poor living, we clubbed together, and I went up to the town on 
horseback with a great salt-bag behind the saddle, and a few reals in 
my pocket, and brought back the bag full of onions, pears, beans, 
water-melons, and other fruits; for the young woman who tended 
the garden, finding that I belonged to the American ship, and that 
we were short of provisions, put in a double portion. With these 
we lived like fighting-cocks for a week or two, and had, besides, 
what the sailors call "a blow-out on sleep;" not turning out in the 
morning until breakfast was ready. I employed several days in 
overhauling my chest, and mending up all my old clothes, until I 
had got everything in order — patch upon patch, like a sand-barge's 
mainsail. Then I took hold of Bowditch's Navigator, which I had 
always with me. I had been through the greater part of it, and now 
went carefully through it, from beginning to end working out most 
of the examples. That done, and there being no signs of the Pilgrim, 
I made a descent upon old Schmidt, and borrowed and read all the 
books there were upon the beach. Such a dearth was there of these 
latter articles, that anything, even a little child's story-book, or the 
half of a shipping calendar, appeared like a treasure. I actually read 
a jest-book through, from beginning to end, in one day, as I should 
a novel, and enjoyed it very much. At last, when I thought that there 
were no more to be got, I found, at the bottom of old Schmidt's 
chest, "Mandeville, a Romance, by Godwin, in five volumes." This 
I had never read, but Godwin's name was enough, and after the 
wretched trash I had devoured, anything bearing the name of a 
distinguished intellectual man, was a prize indeed. I bore it off, 
and for two days I was up early and late, reading with all my might, 
and actually drinking in delight. It is no extravagance to say that it 
was like a spring in a desert land. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST l6l 

From the sublime to the ridiculous — so with me, from Mandeville 
to hide-curing, was but a step; for 

Wednesday, July i8th, brought us the brig Pilgrim from the 
windward. As she came in, we found that she was a good deal 
altered in her appearance. Her short top-gallant masts were up; her 
bowlines all unrove (except to the courses) ; the quarter boom-irons 
off her lower yards; her jack-cross-trees sent down; several blocks got 
rid of; running-rigging rove in new places; and numberless other 
changes of the same character. Then, too, there was a new voice 
giving orders, and a new face on the quarter-deck, — a short, dark- 
complexioned man, in a green jacket and a high leather cap. These 
changes, of course, set the whole beach on the qui-viue, and we were 
all waiting for the boat to come ashore, that we might have things 
explained. At length, after the sails were furled and the anchor 
carried out, the boat pulled ashore, and the news soon flew that the 

expected ship had arrived at Santa Barbara, and that Captain T 

had taken command of her, and her captain, Faucon, had taken 
the Pilgrim, and was the green-jacketed man on the quarter- 
deck. The boat put directly off again, without giving us time to 
ask any more questions, and we were obliged to wait till night, 
when we took a little skiff, that lay on the beach, and paddled off. 
When I stepped aboard, the second mate called me aft, and gave 
me a large bundle, directed to me, and marked "Ship Alert." This 
was what I had longed for, yet I refrained from opening it until I 
went ashore. Diving down into the forecastle, I found the same old 
crew, and was really glad to see them again. Numerous inquiries 
passed as to the new ship, the latest news from Boston, etc., etc. 

S had received letters from home, and nothing remarkable had 

happened. The Alert was agreed on all hands to be a fine ship, and 
a large one: "Larger than the Rosa" — "Big enough to carry off all 
the hides in California" — "Rail as high as a man's head" — "A crack 

ship" — "A regular dandy," etc., etc. Captain T took command 

of her, and she went directly up to Monterey; from thence she was 
to go to San Francisco, and probably would not be in San Diego 
under two or three months. Some of the Pilgrim's crew found old 
ship-mates aboard of her, and spent an hour or two in her forecastle, 



l62 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

the evening before she sailed. They said her decks were as white as 
snow — holystoned every morning, like a man-of-war's; everything 
on board "shipshape and Bristol fashion;" a fine crew, three mates, 
a sailmaker and carpenter, and all complete. "They've got a man 
for mate of that ship, and not a bloody sheep about decks!" — "A 
mate that knows his duty, and makes everybody do theirs, and won't 
be imposed upon either by captain or crew." After collecting all the 
information we could get on this point, we asked something about 
their new captain. He had hardly been on board long enough for 
them to know much about him, but he had taken hold strong, as 
soon as he took command; — sending down the top-gallant masts, 
and unreeving half the rigging, the very first day. 

Having got all the news we could, we pulled ashore; and as soon 
as we reached the house, I, as might be supposed, proceeded directly 
to opening my bundle, and found a reasonable supply of duck, flan- 
nel shirts, shoes, etc., and, what was still more valuable, a packet of 
eleven letters. These I sat up nearly all the night to read, and put 
them carefully away, to be read and re-read again and again at my 
leisure. Then came a half a dozen newspapers, the last of which 
gave notice of Thanksgiving, and of the clearance of "ship Alert, 
Edward H. Faucon, master, for Callao and California, by Bryant, 
Sturgis & Co." No one has ever been on distant voyages, and after 
a long absence received a newspaper frorri home, who cannot under- 
stand the delight that they give one. I read every part of them — the 
houses to let; things lost or stolen; auction sales, and all. Nothing 
carries you so entirely to a place, and makes you feel so perfectly at 
home, as a newspaper. The very name of "Boston Daily Advertiser" 
"sounded hospitably upon the ear." 

The Pilgrim discharged her hides, which set us at work again, 
and in a few days we were in the old routine of dry hides — wet 
hides — cleaning — ^beating, etc. Captain Faucon came quietly up to 
me, as I was at work, with my knife, cutting the meat from a dirty 
hide, asked me how I liked California, and repeated — "Tityre, tu 
patul^ recubans sub tegmine fagi." Very apropos, thought I, and, 
at the same time, serves to show that you understand Latin. How- 
ever, a kind word from a captain is a thing not to be slighted; so 
I answered him civilly, and made the most of it. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 63 

Saturday, July nth. The Pilgrim set sail for the windward, and 
left us to go on in our old way. Having laid in such a supply of 
wood, and the days being now long, and invariably pleasant, we had 
a good deal of time to ourselves. All the duck I received from home, 
I soon made up into trowsers and frocks, and displayed, every Sun- 
day, a complete suit of my own make, from head to foot, having 
formed the remnants of the duck into a cap. Reading, mending, 
sleeping, with occasional excursions into the bush, with the dogs, 
in search of coati, hares, and rabbits, or to encounter a rattlesnake, 
and now and then a visit to the Presidio, filled up our spare time 
after hide-curing was over for the day. Another amusement, which 
we sometimes indulged in, was "burning the water" for craw-fish. 
For this purpose, we procured a pair of grains, with a long staff like 
a harpoon, and making torches with tarred rope twisted round a 
long pine stick, took the only boat on the beach, a small skiff, and 
with a torch-bearer in the bow, a steersman in the stern, and one 
man on each side with the grains, went off, on dark nights, to burn 
the water. This is fine sport. Keeping within a few rods of the 
shore, where the water is not more than three or four feet deep, 
with a clear sandy bottom, the torches light everything up so that one 
could almost have seen a pin among the grains of sand. The craw-fish 
are an easy prey, and we used soon to get a load of them. The other 
fish were more difficult to catch, yet we frequently speared a number 
of them, of various kinds and sizes. The Pilgrim brought us down 
a supply of fish-hooks, which we had never had before, on the beach, 
and for several days we went down to the Point, and caught a 
quantity of cod and mackerel. On one of these expeditions, we saw 
a battle between two Sandwich Islanders and a shark. "Johnny" 
had been playing about our boat for some time, driving away the 
fish, and showing his teeth at our bait, when we missed him, and in 
a few moments heard a great shouting between two Kanakas who 
were fishing on the rock opposite to us: "E hana hana ma\e i \a ia 
nut!" "E pa mat Aikane!" etc., etc.; and saw them pulling away on 
a stout line, and "Johnny Shark" floundering at the other end. The 
line soon broke; but the Kanakas would not let him off so easily, 
and sprang directly into the water after him. Now came the tug of 
war. Before we could get into deep water, one of them seized him 



164 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

by the tail, and ran up with him upon the beach; but Johnny 
twisted round, turning his head under his body, and, showing his 
teeth in the vicinity of the Kanaka's hand, made him let go and 
spring out of the way. The shark now turned tail and made the best 
of his way, by flapping and floundering, toward deep water; but 
here again, before he was fairly off, the other Kanaka seized him 
by the tail, and made a spring towards the beach, his companion at 
the same time paying away upon him with stones and a large stick. 
As soon, however, as the shark could turn, he was obliged to let go 
his hold; but the instant he made toward deep water, they were both 
behind him, watching their chance to seize him. In this way the 
battle went on for some time, the shark, in a rage, splashing and 
twisting about, and the Kanakas, in high excitement, yelling at the 
top of their voices; but the shark at last got off, carrying away a hook 
and line, and not a few severe bruises. 



CHAPTER XXI 
California and Its Inhabitants 

WE KEPT up a constant connection with the Presidio, and 
by the close of the summer I had added much to my 
vocabulary, beside having made the acquaintance of nearly 
everybody in the place, and acquired some knowledge of the char- 
acter and habits of the people, as well as of the institutions under 
which they live. 

California was first discovered in 1536, by Cortes and was sub- 
sequently visited by numerous other adventurers as well as com- 
missioned voyagers of the Spanish crown. It was found to be inhab- 
ited by numerous tribes of Indians, and to be in many parts ex- 
tremely fertile; to which, of course, was added rumors of gold 
mines, pearl fishery, etc. No sooner was the importance of the 
country known, than the Jesuits obtained leave to establish them- 
selves in it, to Christianize and enlighten the Indians. They estab- 
lished missions in various parts of the country toward the close of 
the seventeenth century, and collected the natives about them, bap- 
tizing them into the church, and teaching them the arts of civilized 
life. To protect the Jesuits in their missions, and at the same time 
to support the power of the crown over the civilized Indians, two 
forts were erected and garrisoned, one at San Diego, and the other 
at Monterey. These were called Presidios, and divided the command 
of the whole country between them. Presidios have since been estab- 
lished at Santa Barbara and San Francisco; thus dividing the country 
into four large districts, each with its presidio, and governed by the 
commandant. The soldiers, for the most part, married civilized 
Indians; and thus, in the vicinity of each presidio, sprung up, grad- 
ually, small towns. In the course of time, vessels began to come 
into the ports to trade with the missions, and received hides in re- 
turn; and thus began the great trade of California. Nearly all the 
cattle in the country belonged to the missions, and they employed 

165 



1 66 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

their Indians, who became, in fact, their slaves, in tending their vast 
herds. In the year 1793, when Vancouver visited San Diego, the 
mission had obtained great wealth and power, and are accused of 
having depreciated the country with the sovereign, that they might 
be allowed to retain their possessions. On the expulsion of the 
Jesuits from the Spanish dominions, the missions passed into the 
hands of the Franciscans, though without any essential change in 
their management. Ever since the independence of Mexico, the mis- 
sions have been going down; until, at last, a law was passed, strip- 
ping them of all their possessions, and confining the priests to their 
spiritual duties; and at the same time declaring all the Indians free 
and independent Rancheros. The change in the condition of the 
Indians was, as may be supposed, only nominal: they are virtually 
slaves, as much as they ever were. But in the missions, the change 
was complete. The priests have now no power, except in their 
religious character, and the great possessions of the missions are 
given over to be preyed upon by the harpies of the civil power, who 
are sent there in the capacity of administradores, to settle up the 
concerns; and who usually end, in a few years, by making themselves 
fortunes, and leaving their stewardships worse than they found 
them. The dynasty of the priests was much more acceptable to the 
people of the country, and indeed, to every one concerned with the 
country, by trade or otherwise, than that of the administradores. 
The priests were attached perpetually to one mission, and felt the 
necessity of keeping up its credit. Accordingly, their debts were 
regularly paid, and the people were, in the main, well treated, and 
attached to those who had spent their whole lives among them. But 
the administradores are strangers sent from Mexico, having no inter- 
est in the country; not identified in any way with their charge, and, 
for the most part, men of desperate fortunes — broken down politi- 
cians and soldiers — whose only object is to retrieve their condition 
in as short a time as possible. The change had been made but a 
few years before our arrival upon the coast, yet, in that short time, 
the trade was much diminished, credit impaired, and the venerable 
missions going rapidly to decay. The external arrangements remain 
the same. There are four presidios, having under their protection 
the various missions, and pueblos, which are towns formed by the 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 67 

civil power, and containing no mission or presidio. The most 
northerly presidio is San Francisco; the next Monterey; the next 
Santa Barbara, including the mission of the same, St. Louis Obispo, 
and St. Buenaventura, which is the finest mission in the whole 
country, having very fertile soil and rich vineyards. The last, and 
most southerly, is San Diego, including the mission of the same, 
San Juan Campestrano, the Pueblo de los Angelos, the largest town 
in California, with the neighboring mission of San Gabriel. The 
priests in spiritual matters are subject to the Archbishop of Mexico, 
and in temporal matters to the governor-general, who is the great 
civil and military head of the country. 

The government of the country is an arbitrary democracy; having 
no common law, and no judiciary. Their only laws are made and 
unmade at the caprice of the legislature, and are as variable as the 
legislature itself. They pass through the form of sending representa- 
tives to the congress at Mexico, but as it takes several months to go 
and return, and there is very little communication between the capi- 
tal and this distant province, a member usually stays there, as per- 
manent member, knowing very well that there will be revolutions 
at home before he can write and receive an answer; if another mem- 
ber should be sent, he has only to challenge him, and decide the con- 
tested election in that way. 

Revolutions are matters of constant occurrence in California. They 
are got up by men who are at the foot of the ladder and in desperate 
circumstances, just as a new political party is started by such men in 
our own country. The only object, of course, is the loaves and fishes; 
and instead of caucusing, paragraphing, libelling, feasting, promis- 
ing, and lying, as with us, they take muskets and bayonets, and 
seizing upon the presidio and custom-house, divide the spoils, and 
declare a new dynasty. As for justice, they know no law but will 
and fear. A Yankee, who had been naturalized, and become a Cath- 
ohc, and had married in the country, was sitting in his house at the 
Pueblo de los Angelos, with his wife and children, when a Spaniard, 
with whom he had had a difficulty, entered the house, and stabbed 
him to the heart before them all. The murderer was seized by some 
Yankees who had settled there, and kept in confinement until a 
statement of the whole affair could be sent to the governor-general. 



1 68 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

He refused to do anything about it, and the countrymen of the 
murdered man, seeing no prospect of justice being administered, 
made known that if nothing was done, they should try the man 
themselves. It chanced that, at this time, there was a company of 
forty trappers and hunters from Kentucky, with their rifles, who 
had made their head-quarters at the Pueblo; and these, together with 
the Americans and Englishmen in the place, who were between 
twenty and thirty in number, took possession of the town, and 
waiting a reasonable time, proceeded to try the man according to 
the forms in their own country. A judge and jury were appointed, 
and he was tried, convicted, sentenced to be shot, and carried out 
before the town, with his eyes blindfolded. The names of all the 
men were then put into a hat and each one pledging himself to 
perform his duty, twelve names were drawn out, and the men took 
their stations with their rifles, and, firing at the word, laid him dead. 
He was decently buried, and the place was restored quietly to the 
proper authorities. A general, with titles enough for an hidalgo, was 
at San Gabriel, and issued a proclamation as long as the fore-top- 
bowline, threatening destruction to the rebels, but never stirred from 
his fort; for forty Kentucky hunters, with their rifles, were a match 
for a whole regiment of hungry, drawling, lazy half-breeds. This 
affair happened while we were at San Pedro, (the port of the 
Pueblo,) and we had all the particulars directly from those who 
were on the spot. A few months afterwards, another man, whom 
we had often seen in San Diego, murdered a man and his wife on 
the high road between the Pueblo and San Louis Rey, and the for- 
eigners not feeling themselves called upon to act in this case, the 
parties being all natives, nothing was done about it; and I fre- 
quently afterwards saw the murderer in San Diego, where he was 
living with his wife and family. 

When a crime has been committed by Indians, justice, or rather 
vengeance, is not so tardy. One Sunday afternoon, while I was at 
San Diego, an Indian was sitting on his horse, when another, with 
whom he had had some difficulty, came up to him, drew a long knife, 
and plunged it directly into the horse's heart. The Indian sprang 
from his falling horse, drew out the knife, and plunged it into the 
other Indian's breast, over his shoulder, and laid him dead. The 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 69 

poor fellow was seized at once, clapped into the calabozo, and kept 
there until an answer could be received from Monterey. A few 
weeks afterwards, I saw the poor wretch, sitting on the bare ground, 
in front of the calabozo, with his feet chained to a stake, and hand- 
cuffs about his wrists. I knew there was very little hope for him. 
Although the deed was done in hot blood, the horse on which he 
was sitting being his own, and a great favorite, yet he was an 
Indian, and that was enough. In about a week after I saw him, I 
heard that he had been shot. These few instances will serve to give 
one a notion of the distribution of justice in California. 

In their domestic relations, these people are no better than in their 
public. The men are thriftless, proud, and extravagant, and very 
much given to gaming; and the women have but little education, 
and a good deal of beauty, and their morality, of course, is none of 
the best; yet the instances of infidelity are much less frequent than 
one would at first suppose. In fact, one vice is set over against 
another; and thus, something like a balance is obtained. The 
women have but little virtue, but then the jealousy of their husbands 
is extreme, and their revenge deadly and almost certain. A few 
inches of cold steel has been the punishment of many an unwary 
man, who has been guilty, perhaps, of nothing more than indiscre- 
tion of manner. The difKculties of the attempt are numerous, and 
the consequences of discovery fatal. With the unmarried women, 
too, great watchfulness is used. The main object of the parents is 
to marry their daughters well, and to this, the slightest slip would be 
fatal. The sharp eyes of a dueiia, and the cold steel of a father or 
brother, are a protection which the characters of most of them — men 
and women — render by no means useless; for the very men who 
would lay down their lives to avenge the dishonor of their own 
family, would risk the same lives to complete the dishonor of 
another. 

Of the poor Indians, very little care is taken. The priests, indeed, 
at the missions, are said to keep them very strictly, and some rules 
are usually made by the alcaldes to punish their misconduct; but it 
all amounts to but little. Indeed, to show the entire want of any 
sense of morality or domestic duty among them, I have frequently 
known an Indian to bring his wife, to whom he was lawfully mar- 



170 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

ried in the church, down to the beach, and carry her back again, 
dividing with her the money which she had got from the sailors. If 
any of the girls were discovered by the alcalde to be open evil-livers, 
they were whipped, and kept at work sweeping the square of the pre- 
sidio, and carrying mud and bricks for the buildings; yet a few reals 
would generally buy them off. Intemperance, too, is a common vice 
among the Indians. The Spaniards, on the contrary, are very abste- 
mious, and I do not remember ever having seen a Spaniard in- 
toxicated. 

Such are the people who inhabit a country embracing four or five 
hundred miles of sea-coast, with several good harbors; with fine 
forests in the north; the waters filled with fish, and the plains cov- 
ered with thousands of herds of cattle; blessed with a climate, than 
which there can be no better in the world; free from all manner of 
diseases, whether epidemic or endemic; and with a soil in which 
corn yields from seventy to eighty fold. In the hands of an enter- 
prising people, what a country this might be! we are ready to say. 
Yet how long would a people remain so, in such a country? The 
Americans (as those from the United States are called) and English- 
men, who are fast filling up the principal towns, and getting the 
trade into their hands, are indeed more industrious and effective 
than the Spaniards; yet their children are brought up Spaniards, in 
every respect, and if the "California fever" (laziness) spares the 
first generation, it always attacks the second. 



CHAPTER XXII 

Life on Shore — The Alert 

SATURDAY, July i8th. This day, sailed the Mexican her- 
maphrodite brig, Fazio, for San Bias and Mazatlan. This was 
the brig which was driven ashore at San Pedro in a south- 
easter, and had been lying at San Diego to repair and take in her 
cargo. The owner of her had had a good deal of difficulty with the 
government about the duties, etc., and her sailing had been delayed 
for several weeks; but everything having been arranged, she got 
under weigh with a light breeze, and was floating out of the harbor, 
when two horsemen came dashing down to the beach, at full speed, 
and tried to find a boat to put off after her; but there being none on 
the beach, they offered a handful of silver to any Kanaka who 
would swim off and take a letter on board. One of the Kanakas, a 
fine, active, well-made young fellow, instantly threw off everything 
but his duck trowsers, and putting the letter into his hat, swam 
off, after the vessel. Fortunately, the wind was very light and the 
vessel was going slowly, so that, although she was nearly a mile 
off when he started, he gained on her rapidly. He went through the 
water leaving a wake like a small steamboat. I certainly never saw 
such swimming before. They saw him coming from the deck, but 
did not heave-to, suspecting the nature of his errand; yet, the wind 
continuing light, he swam alongside and got on board, and delivered 
his letter. The captain read the letter, told the Kanaka there was no 
answer, and giving him a glass of brandy, left him to jump over- 
board and find the best of his way to the shore. The Kanaka swam 
in for the nearest point of land, and, in about an hour, made his 
appearance at the hide-house. He did not seem at all fatigued, had 
made three or four dollars, got a glass of brandy, and was in fine 
spirits. The brig kept on her course, and the government officers, 
who had come down to forbid her sailing, went back, each with 

171 



172 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

something like a flea in his ear, having depended upon extorting a 
little more money from the owner. 

It was now nearly three months since the Alert arrived at Santa 
Barbara, and we began to expect her daily. About a half a mile be- 
hind the hide-house, was a high hill; and every afternoon, as soon 
as we had done our work, some one of us walked up to see if there 
were any sail in sight, coming down before the regular trades, which 
blow every afternoon. Each day, after the latter part of July, we 
went up the hill, and came back disappointed. I was anxious for 
her arrival, for I had been told by letter that the owners in Boston, 

at the request of my friends, had written to Captain T to take 

me on board the Alert, in case she returned to the United States 
before the Pilgrim; and I, of course, wished to know whether the 
order had been received, and what was the destination of the ship. 
One year more or less might be of small consequence to others, but 
it was everything to me. It was now just a year since we sailed from 
Boston, and at the shortest, no vessel could expect to get away under 
eight or nine months, which would make our absence two years in 
all. This would be pretty long, but would not be fatal. It would 
not necessarily be decisive of my future life. But one year more 
would settle the matter. I should be a sailor for life; and although 
I had made up my mind to it before I had my letters from home, 
and was, as I thought, quite satisfied; yet, as soon as an opportunity 
was held out to me of returning, and the prospect of another kind 
of life was opened to me, my anxiety to return, and, at least, to have 
the chance of deciding upon my course for myself, was beyond 
measure. Beside that, I wished to be "equal to either fortune," and 
to qualify myself for an officer's berth, and a hide-house was no place 
to learn seamanship in. I had become experienced in hide-curing, 
and everything went on smoothly, and I had many opportunities of 
becoming acquainted with the people, and much leisure for reading 
and studying navigation; yet practical seamanship could only be got 
on board ship; therefore, I determined to ask to be taken on board 
the ship when she arrived. By the first of August, we finished curing 
all our hides, stored them away, cleaned out our vats, (in which 
latter work we spent two days, up to our knees in mud and the sedi- 
ments of six months' hide-curing, in a stench which would drive 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 73 

a donkey from his breakfast,) and got in readiness for the arrival 
of the ship, and had another leisure interval of three or four vi^eeks; 
which I spent, as usual, in reading, writing, studying, making and 
mending my clothes, and getting my wardrobe in complete readi- 
ness, in case I should go on board the ship; and in fishing, ranging 
the woods with the dogs, and in occasional visits to the presidio and 
mission. A good deal of my time was spent in taking care of a little 
puppy, which I had selected from thirty-six, that were born within 
three days of one another, at our house. He was a fine, promising 
pup, with four white paws, and all the rest of his body of a dark 
brown. I built a little kennel for him, and kept him fastened there, 
away from the other dogs, feeding and disciplining him myself. In 
a few weeks, I got him in complete subjection, and he grew finely, 
was very much attached to me, and bid fair to be one of the leading 
dogs on the beach. I called him Bravo, and the only thing I regretted 
at the thought of leaving the beach, was parting with him. 

Day after day, we went up the hill, but no ship was to be seen, 
and we began to form all sorts of conjectures as to her whereabouts; 
and the theme of every evening's conversation at the different 
houses, and in our afternoon's paseo upon the beach, was the ship 
— where she could be — had she been to San Francisco.? — how many 
hides she would bring, etc., etc. 

Tuesday, August 25th. This morning, the officer in charge of our 
house went off beyond the point a fishing, in a small canoe, with 
two Kanakas; and we were sitting quietly in our room at the hide- 
house, when, just before noon, we heard a complete yell of "Sail 
ho!" breaking out from all parts of the beach, at once, — from the 
Kanakas' oven to the Rosa's house. In an instant, every one was 
out of his house; and there was a fine, tall ship, with royals and 
skysails set, bending over before the strong afternoon breeze, and 
coming rapidly round the point. Her yards were braced sharp up; 
every sail was set, and drew well; the Yankee ensign was flying 
from her mizen-peak; and having the tide in her favor, she came 
up like a race-horse. It was nearly six months since a new vessel 
had entered San Diego, and of course, every one was on the qui-vive. 
She certainly made a fine appearance. Her light sails were taken in, 
as she passed the low, sandy tongue of land, and clewing up her head 



174 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

sails, she rounded handsomely to, under her mizen topsail, and 
let go the anchor at about a cable's length from the shore. In a few 
minutes, the topsail yards were manned, and all three of the top- 
sails furled at once. From the fore top-gallant yard, the men slid 
down the stay to furl the jib, and from the mizen top-gallant yard, 
by the stay, into the maintop, and thence to the yard; and the men 
on the topsail yards came down the lifts to the yard-arms of the 
courses. The sails were furled with great care, the bunts triced up 
by jiggers, and the jibs stowed in cloth. The royal yards were then 
struck, tackles got upon the yard-arms and the stay, the long-boat 
hoisted out, a large anchor carried astern, and the ship moored. 
Then the captain's gig was lowered away from the quarter, and 
a boat's crew of fine lads, between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, 
pulled the captain ashore. The gig was a light whale-boat, hand- 
somely painted, and fitted up with cushions, etc., in the stern 
sheets. We immediately attacked the boat's crew, and got very 
thick with them in a few minutes. We had much to ask about 
Boston, their passage out, etc., and they were very curious to know 
about the life we were leading upon the beach. One of them 
offered to exchange with me; which was just what I wanted; and 
we had only to get the permission of the captain. 

After dinner, the crew began discharging their hides, and, as we 
had nothing to do at the hide-houses, we were ordered aboard to 
help them. I had now my first opportunity of seeing the ship which 
I hoped was to be my home for the next year. She looked as well 
on board as she did from without. Her decks were wide and roomy, 
(there being no poop, or house on deck, which disfigures the after 
part of most of our vessels,) flush, fore and aft, and as white as snow, 
which the crew told us was from constant use of holystones. There 
was no foolish gilding and gingerbread work, to take the eye of 
landsmen and passengers, but everything was "ship-shape and 
Bristol fashion." There was no rust, no dirt, no rigging hanging 
slack, no fag ends of ropes and "Irish pendants" aloft, and the 
yards were squared "to a t" by lifts and braces. 

The mate was a fine, hearty, noisy fellow, with a voice like a 
lion, and always wide awake. He was "a man, every inch of him," 
as the sailors said; and though "a bit of a horse," and "a hard cus- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 75 

tomer," yet he was generally liked by the crew. There was also a 
second and third mate, a carpenter, sailmaker, steward, cook, etc., 
and twelve, including boys, before the mast. She had, on board, 
seven thousand hides, which she had collected at the windward, 
and also horns and tallow. All these we began discharging, from 
both gangways at once, into the two boats, the second mate having 
charge of the launch, and the third mate of the pinnace. For several 
days, we were employed in this way, until all the hides were taken 
out, when the crew began taking in ballast, and we returned to 
our old work, hide-curing. 

Saturday, Aug. 2gth. Arrived, brig Catalina, from the windward. 

Sunday, ^oth. This was the first Sunday that the crew had been 
in San Diego, and of course they were all for going up to see the 
town. The Indians came down early, with horses to let for the 
day, and all the crew, who could obtain liberty, went ofl to the 
Presidio and mission, and did not return until night. I had seen 
enough of San Diego, and went on board and spent the day with 
some of the crew, whom I found quietly at work in the forecastle, 
mending and washing their clothes, and reading and writing. They 
told me that the ship stopped at Callao in the passage out, and there 
lay three weeks. She had a passage of little over eighty days from 
Boston to Callao, which is one of the shortest on record. There, 
they left the Brandywine frigate, and other smaller American ships 
of war, and the English frigate Blonde, and a French seventy-four. 
From Callao they came directly to California, and had visited every 
port on the coast, including San Francisco. The forecastle in which 
they lived was large, tolerably well lighted by bulls-eyes, and, being 
kept perfectly clean, had quite a comfortable appearance; at least, 
it was far better than the little, black, dirty hole in which I had 
lived so many months on board the Pilgrim. By the regulations of 
the ship, the forecastle was cleaned out every morning, and the 
crew, being very neat, kept it clean by some regulations of their 
own, such as having a large spitbox always under the steps and 
between the bits, and obliging every man to hang up his wet clothes, 
etc. In addition to this, it was holystoned every Saturday morning. 
In the after part of the ship was a handsome cabin, a dining-room, 
and a trade-room, fitted out with shelves and furnished with all 



176 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

sorts of goods. Between these and the forecastle was the "between- 
decks," as high as the gun deck of a frigate; being six feet and a 
half, under the beams. These between-decks were holystoned reg- 
ularly, and kept in the most perfect order; the carpenter's bench 
and tools being in one part, the sailmaker's in another, and boat- 
swain's locker, with the spare rigging, in a third. A part of the 
crew slept here, in hammocks swung fore and aft from the beams, 
and triced up every morning. The sides of the between-decks were 
clapboarded, the knees and stanchions of iron, and the latter made 
to unship. The crew said she was as tight as a drum, and a fine 
sea boat, her only fault being, that of most fast ships, — that she was 
wet, forward. When she was going, as she sometimes would, eight 
or nine knots on a wind, there would not be a dry spot forward 
of the gangway. The men told great stories of her sailing, and had 
great confidence in her as a "lucky ship." She was seven years old, 
and had always been in the Canton trade, and never had met with 
an accident of any consequence, and had never made a passage that 
was not shorter than the average. The third mate, a young man of 
about eighteen years of age, nephew of one of the owners, had been 
in the ship from a small boy, and "believed in the ship;" and the 
chief mate thought more of her than he would of a wife and family. 
The ship lay about a week longer in port, when, having discharged 
her cargo and taken in ballast, she prepared to get under weigh. I 
now made my application to the captain to go on board. He told 
me that I could go home in the ship when she sailed (which I 
knew before) ; and, finding that I wished to be on board while she 
was on the coast, said he had no objection, if I could find one of 
my own age to exchange with me, for the time. This, I easily 
accomplished, for they were glad to change the scene by a few 
months on shore, and, moreover, escape the winter and the south- 
easters; and I went on board the next day, with my chest and 
hammock, and found myself once more afloat. 



CHAPTER XXIII 
New Ship and Shipmates — My Watchmate 

TUESDAY, Sept. 8th. This was my first day's duty on board 
the ship; and though a sailor's hfe is a sailor's life wherever 
it may be, yet I found everything very different here from 
the customs of the brig Pilgrim. After all hands were called, at day- 
break, three minutes and a half were allowed for every man to 
dress and come on deck, and if any were longer than that, they 
were sure to be overhauled by the mate, who was always on deck, 
and making himself heard all over the ship. The head-pump was 
then rigged, and the decks washed down by the second and third 
mates; the chief mate walking the quarter-deck and keeping a 
general supervision, but not deigning to touch a bucket or a brush. 
Inside and out, fore and aft, upper deck and between decks, steerage 
and forecastle, rail, bulwarks, and water-ways, were washed, scrubbed 
and scraped with brooms and canvas, and the decks were wet and 
sanded all over, and then holystoned. The holystone is a large, 
soft stone, smooth on the bottom, with long ropes attached to each 
end, by which the crew keep it sliding fore and aft, over the wet, 
sanded decks. Smaller hand-stones, which the sailors call "prayer- 
books," are used to scrub in among the crevices and narrow places, 
where the large holystone will not go. An hour or two, we were 
kept at this work, when the head-pump was manned, and all the 
sand washed off the decks and sides. Then came swabs and 
squilgees; and after the decks were dry, each one went to his 
particular morning job. There were five boats belonging to the 
ship, — launch, pinnace, jolly-boat, larboard quarter-boat, and gig, 
— each of which had a coxswain, who had charge of it, and was 
answerable for the order and cleanness of it. The rest of the 
cleaning was divided among the crew; one having the brass and 
composition work about the capstan; another the bell, which was 
of brass, and kept as bright as a gilt button; a third, the harness- 

177 



178 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

cask; another, the man-rope stanchions; others, the steps o£ the 
forecastle and hatchways, which were hauled up and holystoned. 
Each of these jobs must be finished before breakfast; and, in the 
meantime, the rest of the crew filled the scuttle-butt, and the cook 
scraped his kids (wooden tubs out of which the sailors eat) and 
polished the hoops, and placed them before the galley, to await 
inspection. When the decks were dry, the lord paramount made 
his appearance on the quarter-deck, and took a few turns, when 
eight bells were struck, and all hands went to breakfast. Half an 
hour was allowed for breakfast, when all hands were called again; 
the kids, pots, bread-bags, etc., stowed away; and, this morning, 
preparations were made for getting under weigh. We paid out 
on the chain by which we swung; hove in on the other; catted the 
anchor; and hove short on the first. This work was done in shorter 
time than was usual on board the brig; for though everything was 
more than twice as large and heavy, the cat-block being as much 
as a man could lift, and the chain as large as three of the Pilgrim's, 
yet there was a plenty of room to move about in, more discipline and 
system, more men, and more good will. Every one seemed ambitious 
to do his best: officers and men knew their duty, and all went well. 
As soon as she was hove short, the mate, on the forecastle, gave the 
order to loose the sails, and, in an instant, every one sprung into 
the rigging, up the shrouds, and out on the yards, scrambling by 
one another, — the first up the best fellow, — cast off the yard-arm 
gaskets and bunt gaskets, and one man remained on each yard, 
holding the bunt jigger with a turn round the tye, all ready to let go, 
while the rest laid down to man the sheets and halyards. The mate 
then hailed the yards — "All ready forward?" — "All ready the cross- 
jack yards?" etc., etc., and "Aye, aye, sir!" being returned from 
each, the word was given to let go; and in the twinkling of an eye, 
the ship, which had shown nothing but her bare yards, was covered 
with her loose canvas, from the royal-mast-heads to the decks. Every 
one then laid down, except one man in each top, to overhaul the 
rigging, and the topsails were hoisted and sheeted home; all three 
yards going to the mast-head at once, the larboard watch hoisting 
the fore, the starboard watch the main, and five light hands, (of 
whom I was one,) picked from the two watches, the mizen. The 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 79 

yards were then trimmed, the anchor weighed, the cat-block hooked 
on, the fall stretched out, manned by "all hands and the cook," and 
the anchor brought to the head with "cheerily men!" in full chorus. 
The ship being now under weigh, the light sails were set, one after 
another, and she was under full sail, before she had passed the 
sandy point. The fore royal, which fell to my lot, (being in the 
mate's watch,) was more than twice as large as that of the Pilgrim, 
and, though I could handle the brig's easily, I found my hands full, 
with this, especially as there were no jacks to the ship; everything 
being for neatness, and nothing left for Jack to hold on by, but his 
eyelids. 

As soon as we were beyond the point, and all sail out, the order 
was given, "Go below the watch!" and the crew said that, ever since 
they had been on the coast, they had had "watch and watch," while 
going from port to port; and, in fact, everything showed that, 
though strict discipline was kept, and the utmost was required of 
every man, in the way of his duty, yet, on the whole, there was very 
good usage on board. Each one knew that he must be a man, and 
show himself smart when at his duty, yet every one was satisfied 
with the usage; and a contented crew, agreeing with one another, 
and finding no fault, was a contrast indeed with the small, hard- 
used, dissatisfied, grumbling, desponding crew of the Pilgrim. 

It being the turn of our watch to go below, the men went to work, 
mending their clothes, and doing other little things for themselves; 
and I, having got my wardrobe in complete order at San Diego, had 
nothing to do but to read. I accordingly overhauled the chests of 
the crew, but found nothing that suited me exactly, until one of 
the men said he had a book which "told all about a great highway- 
man," at the bottom of his chest, and producing it, I found, to my 
surprise and joy, that it was nothing else than Bulwer's Paul Clifford. 
This, I seized immediately, and going to my hammock, lay there, 
swinging and reading, until the watch was out. The between-decks 
were clear, the hatchways open, and a cool breeze blowing through 
them, the ship under easy way, and everything comfortable. I had 
just got well into the story, when eight bells were struck, and we 
were all ordered to dinner. After dinner came our watch on deck 
for four hours, and, at four o'clock, I went below again, turned 



l80 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

into my hammock, and read until the dog watch. As no lights were 
allowed after eight o'clock, there was no reading in the night watch. 
Having light winds and calms, we were three days on the passage, 
and each watch below, during the daytime, I spent in the same 
manner, until I had finished my book. I shall never forget the 
enjoyment I derived from it. To come across anything with the 
slightest claims to literary merit, was so unusual, that this was a 
perfect feast to me. The brilliancy of the book, the succession of 
capital hits, lively and characteristic sketches, kept me in a constant 
state of pleasing sensations. It was far too good for a sailor. I 
could not expect such fine times to last long. 

While on deck, the regular work of the ship went on. The sail- 
maker and carpenter worked between decks, and the crew had their 
work to do upon the rigging, drawing yarns, making spun-yarn, 
etc., as usual in merchantmen. The night watches were much more 
pleasant than on board the Pilgrim. There, there were so few in a 
watch, that, one being at the wheel, and another on the look-out, 
there was no one left to talk with; but here, we had seven in a 
watch, so that we had long yarns, in abundance. After two or three 
night watches, I became quite well acquainted with all the larboard 
watch. The sailmaker was the head man of the watch, and was 
generally considered the most experienced seaman on board. He 
was a thoroughbred old man-of-war's-man, had been to sea twenty- 
two years, in all kinds of vessels — men-of-war, privateers, slavers, 
and merchantmen; — everything except whalers, which a thorough 
sailor despises, and will always steer clear of, if he can. He had, of 
course, been in all parts of the world, and was remarkable for 
drawing a long bow. His yarns frequently stretched through a 
watch, and kept all hands awake. They were always amusing from 
their improbability, and, indeed, he never expected to be believed, 
but spun them merely for amusement; and as he had some humor 
and a good supply of man-of-war slang and sailor's salt phrases, he 
always made fun. Next to him in age and experience, and, of 
course, in standing in the watch, was an Englishman, named Harris, 
of whom I shall have more to say hereafter. Then, came two or 
three Americans, who had been the common run of European and 
South American voyages, and one who had been in a "spouter," 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST l8l 

and, of course, had all the whaling stories to himself. Last of all, 
was a broad-backed, thick-headed boy from Cape Cod, who had 
been in mackerel schooners, and was making his first voyage in a 
square-rigged vessel. He was born in Hingham, and of course was 
called "Bucketmaker." The other watch was composed of about 
the same number. A tall, fine-looking Frenchman, with coal-black 
whiskers and curly hair, a first-rate seaman, and named John, (one 
name is enough for a sailor,) was the head man of the watch. Then 
came two Americans (one of whom had been a dissipated young 
man of property and family, and was reduced to duck trowsers 
and monthly wages,) a German, an English lad, named Ben, who 
belonged on the mizen topsail yard with me, and was a good sailor 
for his years, and two Boston boys just from the public schools. 
The carpenter sometimes mustered in the starboard watch, and was 
an old sea-dog, a Swede by birth, and accounted the best helmsman 
in the ship. This was our ship's company, beside cook and steward, 
who were blacks, three mates, and the captain. 

The second day out, the wind drew ahead, and we had to beat up 
the coast; so that, in tacking ship, I could see the regulations of the 
vessel. Instead of going wherever was most convenient, and run- 
ning from place to place, wherever work was to be done, each man 
had his station. A regular tacking and wearing bill was made out. 
The chief mate commanded on the forecastle, and had charge of the 
head sails and the forward part of the ship. Two of the best men 
in the ship — the sailmaker from our watch, and John, the French- 
man, from the other, worked the forecastle. The third mate com- 
manded in the waist, and, with the carpenter and one man, worked 
the main tack and bowlines; the cook, ex-officio, the fore sheet, 
and the steward the main. The second mate had charge of the 
after yards, and let go the lee fore and main braces. I was stationed 
at the weather cross-jack braces; three other light hands at the lee; 
one boy at the spanker-sheet and guy; a man and a boy at the main 
topsail, top-gallant, and royal braces; and all the rest of the crew 
— men and boys — tallied on to the main brace. Every one here knew 
his station, must be there when all hands were called to put the 
ship about, and was answerable for every rope committed to him. 
Each man's rope must be let go and hauled in at the order, properly 



1 82 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

made fast, and neatly coiled away when the ship was about. As soon 
as all hands are at their stations, the captain, who stands on the 
weather side of the quarter-deck, makes a sign to the man at the 
wheel to put it down, and calls out "Helm's a lee'!" "Helm's a lee'!" 
answers the mate on the forecastle, and the head sheets are let go. 
"Raise tacks and sheets!" says the captain; "tacks and sheets!" is 
passed forward, and the fore tack and main sheet are let go. The 
next thing is to haul taught for a swing. The weather cross-jack 
braces and the lee main braces are each belayed together upon two 
pins, and ready to be let go; and the opposite braces hauled taught. 
"Main topsail haul!" shouts the captain; the braces are let go; and 
if he has taken his time well, the yards swing round like a top; but 
if he is too late,or too soon, it is like drawing teeth. The after yards 
are then braced up and belayed, the main sheet hauled aft, the 
spanker eased over to leeward, and the men from the braces stand 
by the head yards. "Let go and haul!" says the captain; the second 
mate lets go the weather fore braces, and the men haul in to lee- 
ward. The mate, on the forecastle, looks out for the head yards. 
"Well, the fore topsail yard!" "Top-gallant yard's well!" "Royal yard 
too much! Haul into windward! So! well Ma//" "Well all!" Then 
the starboard watch board the main tack, and the larboard watch 
lay forward and board the fore tack and haul down the jib sheet, 
clapping a tackle upon it, if it blows very fresh. The after yards 
are then trimmed, the captain generally looking out for them him- 
self. "Well the cross-jack yard!" "Small pull the main top-gallant 
yard!" "Well that!" "Well the mizen top-gallant yard!" "Cross- 
jack yards all u/ell!" "Well all aft!" "Haul taught to windward!" 
Everything being now trimmed and in order, each man coils up 
the rigging at his own station, and the order is given — "Go below 
the watch!" 

During the last twenty-four hours of the passage, we beat off 
and on the land, making a tack about once in four hours, so that I 
had a sufficient opportunity' to observe the working of the ship; 
and certainly, it took no more men to brace about this ship's lower 
yards, which were more than fifty feet square, than it did those of 
the Pilgrim, which were not much more than half the size; so much 
depends upon the manner in which, the braces run, and the state 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 83 

of the blocks; and Captain Wilson, of the Ayacucho, who was after- 
wards a passenger with us, upon a trip to windward, said he had 
no doubt that our ship worked two men Ughter than his brig. 

Friday, Sept. nth. This morning, at four o'clock, went below, 
San Pedro point being about two leagues ahead, and the ship going 
on under studding-sails. In about an hour we were waked up by 
the hauling of the chain about decks, and in a few minutes "All 
hands ahoy!" was called; and we were all at work, hauling in and 
making up the studding-sails, overhauling the chain forward, and 
getting the anchors ready. "The Pilgrim is there at anchor," said 
some one, as we were running about decks; and taking a moment's 
look over the rail, I saw my old friend, deeply laden, lying at anchor 
inside of the kelp. In coming to anchor, as well as in tacking, each 
one had his station and duty. The light sails were clewed up and 
furled, the courses hauled up and the jibs down; then came the top- 
sails in the buntlines, and the anchor let go. As soon as she was 
well at anchor, all hands lay aloft to furl the topsails; and this, I soon 
found, was a great matter on board this ship; for every sailor knows 
that a vessel is judged of, a good deal, by the furl of her sails. The 
third mate, a sailmaker, and the larboard watch went upon the fore 
topsail yard; the second mate, carpenter, and the starboard watch 
upon the main; and myself and the English lad, and the two Boston 
boys, and the young Cape-Cod man, furled the mizen topsail. This 
sail belonged to us altogether, to reef and to furl, and not a man was 
allowed to come upon our yard. The mate took us under his special 
care, frequently making us furl the sail over, three or four times, 
until we got the bunt up to a perfect cone, and the whole sail without 
a wrinkle. As soon as each sail was hauled up and the bunt made, 
the jigger was bent on to the slack of the buntlines, and the bunt 
triced up, on deck. The mate then took his place between the knight- 
heads to "twig" the fore, on the windlass to twig the main, and at 
the foot of the mainmast, for the mizen; and if anything was wrong, 
— too much bunt on one side, clews too taught or too slack, or any 
sail abaft the yard, — the whole must be dropped again. When all 
was right, the bunts were triced well up, the yard-arm gaskets passed, 
so as not to leave a wrinkle forward of the yard — short gaskets with 
turns close together. 



184 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

From the moment of letting go the anchor, when the captain 
ceases his care o£ things, the chief mate is the great man. With a 
voice hke a young Hon, he was hallooing and bawling, in all direc- 
tions, making everything fly, and, at the same time, doing everything 
well. He was quite a contrast to the worthy, quiet, unobtrusive 
mate of the Pilgrim; not so estimable a man, perhaps, but a far 

better mate of a vessel; and the entire change in Captain T 's 

conduct, since he took command of the ship, was owing, no doubt, 
in a great measure, to this fact. If the chief officer wants force, dis- 
cipline slackens, everything gets out of joint, the captain interferes 
continually; that makes a difficulty between them, which encourages 
the crew, and the whole ends in a three-sided quarrel. But Mr. 
Brown (the mate of the Alert) wanted no help from anybody; took 
everything into his own hands; and was more likely to encroach 
upon the authority of the master, than to need any spurring. Cap- 
tain T gave his directions to the mate in private, and, except 

in coming to anchor, getting under weigh, tacking, reefing topsails, 
and other "all-hands-work," seldom appeared in person. This is the 
proper state of things, and while this lasts, and there is a good 
understanding aft, everything will go on well. 

Having furled all the sails, the royal yards were next to be sent 
down. The English lad and myself sent down the main, which was 
larger than the Pilgrim's main top-gallant yard; two more light 
hands, the fore; and one boy, the mizen. This order, we always 
kept while on the coast; sending them up and down every time we 
came in and went out of port. They were all tripped and lowered 
together, the main on the starboard side, and the fore and mizen, to 
port. No sooner was she all snug, than tackles were got up on the 
yards and stays, and the long-boat and pinnace hove out. The 
swinging booms were then guyed out, and the boats made fast by 
geswarps, and everything in harbor style. After breakfast, the 
hatches were taken off, and all got ready to receive hides from the 
Pilgrim. All day, boats were passing and repassing, until we had 
taken her hides from her, and left her in ballast trim. These hides 
made but little show in our hold, though they had loaded the 
Pilgrim down to the water's edge. This changing of the hides 
settled the question of the destination of the two vessels, which 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 85 

had been one of some speculation to us. We were to remain in the 
leeward ports, while the Pilgrim was to sail, the next morning, for 
San Francisco. After we had knocked off work, and cleared up 

decks for the night, my friend S came on board, and spent an 

hour with me in our berth between decks. The Pilgrim's crew 
envied me my place on board the ship, and seemed to think that I 
had got a little to windward of them; especially in the matter of 

going home first. S was determined to go home on the Alert, 

by begging or buying; if Captain T would not let him come 

on other terms, he would purchase an exchange with some one of 
the crew. The prospect of another year after the Alert should sail, 
was rather "too much of the monkey." About seven o'clock, the mate 
came down into the steerage, in fine trim for fun, roused the boys 
out of the berth, turned up the carpenter with his fiddle, sent the 
steward with lights to put in the between-decks, and set all hands 
to dancing. The between-decks were high enough to allow of j ump- 
ing; and being clear, and white, from holystoning, made a fine 
dancing-hall. Some of the Pilgrim's crew were in the forecastle, and 
we all turned-to and had a regular sailor's shuffle, till eight bells. 
The Cape-Cod boy could dance the true fisherman's jig, barefooted, 
knocking with his heels, and slapping the decks with his bare feet, 
in time with the music. This was a favorite amusement of the 
mate's, who always stood at the steerage door, looking on, and if 
the boys would not dance, he hazed them round with a rope's end, 
much to the amusement of the men. 

The next morning, according to the orders of the agent, the 
Pilgrim set sail for the windward, to be gone three or four months. 
She got under weigh with very little fuss, and came so near us as 
to throw a letter on board, Captain Faucon standing at the tiller 
himself, and steering her as he would a mackerel smack. When 

Captain T was in command of the Pilgrim, there was as much 

preparation and ceremony as there would be in getting a seventy- 
four under weigh. Captain Faucon was a sailor, every inch of him; 
he knew what a ship was, and was as much at home in one, as a 
cobbler in his stall. I wanted no better proof of this than the opinion 
of the ship's crew, for they had been six months under his command, 
and knew what he was; and if sailors allow their captain to be a 



1 86 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

good seaman, you may be sure he is one, for that is a thing they 
are not always ready to say. 

After the Pilgrim left us, we lay three weeks at San Pedro, from 
the nth of September until the 2nd of October, engaged in the 
usual port duties of landing cargo, taking off hides, etc., etc. These 
duties were much easier, and went on much more agreeably, than 
on board the Pilgrim. "The more, the merrier," is the sailor's 
maxim; and a boat's crew of a dozen could take off all the hides 
brought down in a day, without much trouble, by division of labor; 
and on shore, as well as on board, a good will, and no discontent 
or grumbling, make everything go well. The officer, too, who usually 
went with us, the third mate, was a fine young fellow, and made 
no unnecessary trouble; so that we generally had quite a sociable 
time, and were glad to be relieved from the restraint of the ship. 
While here, I often thought of the miserable, gloomy weeks we had 
spent in this dull place, in the brig; discontent and hard usage on 
board, and four hands to do all the work on shore. Give me a big 
ship. There is more room, more hands, better outfit, better regula- 
tion, more life, and more company. Another thing was better 
arranged here: we had a regular gig's crew. A light whale-boat, 
handsomely painted, and fitted out with stern seats, yoke, tiller- 
ropes, etc., hung on the starboard quarter, and was used as the gig. 
The youngest lad in the ship, a Boston boy about thirteen years old, 
was coxswain of this boat, and had the entire charge of her, to keep 
her clean, and have her in readiness to go and come at any hour. 
Four light hands, of about the same size and age, of whom I was 
one, formed the crew. Each had his oar and seat numbered, and 
we were obliged to be in our places, have our oars scraped white, our 
tholepins in, and the fenders over the side. The bow-man had 
charge of the boat-hook and painter, and the coxswain of the rudder, 
yoke, and stern-sheets. Our duty was to carry the captain and agent 
about, and passengers off and on; which last was no trifling duty, 
as the people on shore have no boats, and every purchaser, from 
the boy who buys his pair of shoes, to the trader who buys his casks 
and bales, were to be taken off and on, in our boat. Some days, when 
people were coming and going fast, we were in the boat, pulling off 
and on, all day long, with hardly time for our meals; making, as 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 87 

we lay nearly three miles from shore, from forty to fifty miles' 
rowing in a day. Still, we thought it the best berth in the ship; for 
when the gig was employed, we had nothing to do with the cargo, 
except small bundles which the passengers carried with them, and 
no hides to carry, besides the opportunity of seeing everybody, 
making acquaintances, hearing the news, etc. Unless the captain or 
agent were in the boat, we had no officer with us, and often had 
fine times with the passengers, who were always willing to talk 
and joke with us. Frequently, too, we were obliged to wait several 
hours on shore; when we would haul the boat up on the beach, and 
leaving one to watch her, go up to the nearest house, or spend the 
time in strolling about the beach, picking up shells, or playing hop- 
scotch, and other games, on the hard sand. The rest of the crew 
never left the ship, except for bringing heavy goods and taking off 
hides; and though we were always in the water, the surf hardly 
leaving us a dry thread from morning till night, yet we were young, 
and the climate was good, and we thought it much better than the 
quiet, hum-drum drag and pull on board ship. We made the 
acquaintance of nearly half of California; for, besides carrying every- 
body in our boat, — men, women, and children, — all the messages, 
letters, and light packages went by us, and being known by our 
dress, we found a ready reception everywhere. 

At San Pedro, we had none of this amusement, for, there being 
but one house in the place, we, of course, had but little company. 
All the variety that I had, was riding, once a week, to the nearest 
rancho, to order a bullock down for the ship. 

The brig Catalina came in from San Diego, and being bound up 
to windward, we both got under weigh at the same time, for a 
trial of speed up to Santa Barbara, a distance of about eighty miles. 
We hove up and got under sail about eleven o'clock at night, with a 
light land-breeze, which died away toward morning, leaving us 
becalmed only a few miles from our anchoring-place. The Catalina, 
being a small vessel, of less than half our size, put out sweeps and 
got a boat ahead, and pulled out to sea, during the night, so that 
she had the sea-breeze earlier and stronger than we did, and we 
had the mortification of seeing her standing up the coast, with a 
fine breeze, the sea all ruffled about her, while we were becalmed, 



l88 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

in-shore. When the sea-breeze died away, she was nearly out of 
sight; and, toward the latter part of the afternoon, the regular 
north-west wind set in fresh, we braced sharp upon it, took a pull 
at every sheet, tack, and halyard, and stood after her, in fine style, 
our ship being very good upon a taughtened bowline. We had 
nearly five hours of fine sailing, beating up to windward, by long 
stretches in and off shore, and evidently gaining upon the Catalina 
at every tack. When this breeze left us, we were so near as to count 
the painted ports on her side. Fortunately, the wind died away when 
we were on our inward tack, and she on her outward, so we 
were in-shore, and caught the land-breeze first, which came off 
upon our quarter, about the middle of the first watch. All hands 
were turned-up, and we set all sail, to the skysails and the royal 
studding-sails; and with these, we glided quietly through the water, 
leaving the Catalina, which could not spread so much canvas as 
we, gradually astern, and, by daylight, were off St. Buenaventura, 
and our antagonist nearly out of sight. The sea-breeze, however, 
favored her again, while we were becalmed under the headland, 
and laboring slowly along, she was abreast of us by noon. Thus we 
continued, ahead, astern, and abreast of one another, alternately; 
now, far out at sea, and again, close in under the shore. On the 
third morning, we came into the great bay of Santa Barbara, two 
hours behind the brig, and thus lost the bet; though, if the race had 
been to the point, we should have beaten her by five or six hours. 
This, however, settled the relative sailing of the vessels, for it was 
admitted that although she, being small and light, could gain upon 
us in very light winds, yet whenever there was breeze enough to 
set us agoing, we walked away from her like hauling in a line; and 
in beating to windward, which is the best trial of a vessel, we had 
much the advantage of her. 

Sunday, Oct. ^th. This was the day of our arrival; and somehow 
or other, our captain always managed not only to sail, but to come 
into port, on a Sunday. The main reason for sailing on the Sabbath 
is not, as many people suppose, because Sunday is thought a lucky 
day, but because it is a leisure day. During the six days, the crew 
are employed upon the cargo and other ship's works, and the Sab- 
bath, being their only day of rest, whatever additional work can 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 189 

be thrown into Sunday, is so much gain to the owners. This is 
the reason of our coasters, packets, etc., saiUng on the Sabbath. They 
get six good days' work out of the crew, and then throw all the 
labor of sailing into the Sabbath. Thus it was with us, nearly all the 
time we were on the coast, and many of our Sabbaths were lost 
entirely to us. The Catholics on shore have no trading and make 
no journeys on Sunday, but the American has no national religion, 
and likes to show his independence of priestcraft by doing as he 
chooses on the Lord's day. 

Santa Barbara looked very much as it did when I left it five 
months before: the long sand beach, with the heavy rollers, break- 
ing upon it in a continual roar, and the little town, imbedded on 
the plain, girt by its amphitheatre of mountains. Day after day, 
the sun shone clear and bright upon the wide bay and the red roofs 
of the houses; everything being as still as death, the people really 
hardly seeming to earn their sun-light. Daylight actually seemed 
thrown away upon them. We had a few visitors, and collected about 
a hundred hides, and every night, at sundown, the gig was sent 
ashore, to wait for the captain, who spent his evenings in the town. 
We always took our monkey-jackets with us, and flint and steel, and 
made a fire on the beach with the driftwood and the bushes we 
pulled from the neighboring thickets, and lay down by it, on the 
sand. Sometimes we would stray up to the town, if the captain 
was likely to stay late, and pass the time at some of the houses, in 
which we were almost always well received by the inhabitants. 
Sometimes earlier and sometimes later, the captain came down; 
when, after a good drenching in the surf, we went aboard, changed 
our clothes, and turned in for the night — yet not for all the night, 
for there was the anchor watch to stand. 

This leads me to speak of my watchmate for nine months — and, 
taking him all in all, the most remarkable man I have ever seen — 
Tom Harris. An hour, every night, while lying in port, Harris and 
myself had the deck to ourselves, and walking fore and aft, night 
after night, for months, I learned his whole character and history, 
and more about foreign nations, the habits of different people, and 
especially the secrets of sailors' lives and hardships, and also of 
practical seamanship, (in which he was abundantly capable of 



190 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

instructing me,) than I could ever have learned elsewhere. But the 
most remarkable thing about him, was the power of his mind. His 
memory was perfect; seeming to form a regular chain, reaching 
from his earliest childhood up to the time I knew him, without one 
link wanting. His power of calculation, too, was remarkable. I 
called myself pretty quick at figures, and had been through a course 
of mathematical studies; but, working by my head, I was unable to 
keep within sight of this man, who had never been beyond his 
arithmetic: so rapid was his calculation. He carried in his head 
not only a log-book of the whole voyage, in which everything was 
complete and accurate, and from which no one ever thought of 
appealing, but also an accurate registry of all the cargo; knowing, 
precisely, where each thing was, and how many hides we took in at 
every port. 

One night, he made a rough calculation of the number of hides 
that could be stowed in the lower hold, between the fore and main 
masts, taking the depth of hold and breadth of beam, (for he 
always knew the dimension of every part of the ship, before he had 
been a month on board,) and the average area and thickness of a 
hide; he came surprisingly near the number, as it afterwards turned 
out. The mate frequently came to him to know the capacity of 
different parts of the vessel, so he could tell the sailmaker very 
nearly the amount of canvas he would want for each sail in the 
ship; for he knew the hoist of every mast, and spread of every sail, 
on the head and foot, in feet and inches. When we were at sea, 
he kept a running account, in his head, of the ship's way — the 
number of knots and the courses; and if the courses did not vary 
much during the twenty-four hours, by taking the whole progress, 
and allowing so many eighths southing or northing, to so many 
easting or westing; he would make up his reckoning just before 
the captain took the sun at noon, and often came wonderfully near 
the mark. Calculation of all kinds was his delight. He had, in his 
chest, several volumes giving accounts of inventions in mechanics, 
which he read with great pleasure, and made himself master of. I 
doubt if he ever forgot anything that he read. The only thing in 
the way of poetry that he ever read was Falconer's Shipwreck, 
which he was delighted with, and whole pages of which he could 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I9I 

repeat. He knew the name of every sailor that had ever been his 
shipmate, and also, of every vessel, captain, and officer, and the 
principal dates of each voyage; and a sailor whom he afterwards 
fell in with, who had been in a ship with Harris nearly twelve 
years before, was very much surprised at having Harris tell him 
things about himself which he had entirely forgotten. His facts, 
whether dates or events, no one thought of disputing; and his 
opinions, few of the sailors dared to oppose; for, right or wrong, 
he always had the best of the argument with them. His reasoning 
powers were remarkable. I have had harder work maintaining an 
argument with him in a watch, even when I knew myself to be 
right, and he was only doubting, than I ever had before; not from 
his obstinacy, but from his acuteness. Give him only a little knowl- 
edge of his subject, and, certainly among all the young men of my 
acquaintance and standing at college, there was not one whom I 
had not rather meet, than this man. I never answered a question 
from him, or advanced an opinion to him, without thinking more 
than once. With an iron memory, he seemed to have your whole 
past conversation at command, and if you said a thing now which 
ill agreed with something said months before, he was sure to have 
you on the hip. In fact, I always felt, when with him, that I was 
with no common man. I had a positive respect for his powers of 
mind, and felt often that if half the pains had been spent upon his 
education which are thrown away, yearly, in our colleges, he would 
have been a man of great weight in society. Like most self-taught 
men, he over-estimated the value of an education; and this, I often 
told him, though I profited by it myself; for he always treated me 
with respect, and often unnecessarily gave way to me, from an 
over-estimate of my knowledge. For the intellectual capacities of 
all the rest of the crew, captain and all, he had the most sovereign 
contempt. He was a far better sailor, and probably a better navigator, 
than the captain, and had more brains than all the after part of 
the ship put together. The sailors said, "Tom's got a head as long 
as the bowsprit," and if any one got into an argument with him, 
they would call out — ^"Ah, Jack! you'd better drop that, as you 
would a hot potato, for Tom will turn you inside out before you 
know it." 



192 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

I recollect his posing me once on the subject of the Corn Laws. 
I was called to stand my watch, and, coming on deck, found him 
there before me; and we began, as usual, to walk fore and aft, in the 
waist. He talked about the Corn Laws; asked me my opinion about 
them, which I gave him; and my reasons; my small stock of which 
I set forth to the best advantage, supposing his knowledge on the 
subject must be less than mine, if, indeed, he had any at all. When 
I had got through, he took the liberty of differing from me, and, 
to my surprise, brought arguments and facts connected with the 
subject which were new to me, to which I was entirely unable to 
reply. I confessed that I knew almost nothing of the subject, and 
expressed my surprise at the extent of his information. He said 
that, a number of years before, while at a boarding-house in Liver- 
pool, he had fallen in with a pamphlet on the subject, and, as it 
contained calculations, had read it very carefully, and had ever 
since wished to find some one who could add to his stock of 
knowledge on the question. Although it was many years since he 
had seen the book, and it was a subject with which he had no 
previous acquaintance, yet he had the chain of reasoning, founded 
upon principles of political economy, perfect in his memory; and 
his facts, so far as I could judge, were correct; at least, he stated 
them with great precision. The principles of the steam engine, too, 
he was very familiar with, having been several months on board 
of a steamboat, and made himself master of its secrets. He knew 
every lunar star in both hemispheres, and was a perfect master of his 
quadrant and sextant. Such was the man, who, at forty, was still 
a dog before the mast, at twelve dollars a month. The reason of this 
was to be found in his whole past life, as I had it, at different times, 
from himself. 

He was an Englishman, by birth, a native of Ilfracomb, in 
Devonshire. His father was skipper of a small coaster, from Bristol, 
and dying, left him, when quite young, to the care of his mother, 
by whose exertions he received a common-school education, passing 
his winters at school and his summers in the coasting trade, until 
his seventeenth year, when he left home to go upon foreign voyages. 
Of his mother, he often spoke with the greatest respect, and said 
that she was a strong-minded woman, and had the best system of 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST I93 

education he had ever known; a system which had made respectable 
men of his three brothers, and failed only in him, from his own 
indomitable obstinacy. One thing he often mentioned, in which 
he said his mother differed from all other mothers that he had 
ever seen disciplining their children; that was, that when he was 
out of humor and refused to eat, instead of putting his plate away, 
as most mothers would, and saying that his hunger would bring 
him to it, in time, she would stand over him and oblige him to 
eat it — every mouthful of it. It was no fault of hers that he was 
what I saw him; and so great was his sense of gratitude for her 
efforts, though unsuccessful, that he determined, at the close of the 
voyage, to embark for home with all the wages he should get, to 
spend with and for his mother, if perchance he should find her alive. 
After leaving home, he had spent nearly twenty years, sailing 
upon all sorts of voyages, generally out of the ports of New York 
and Boston. Twenty years of vice! Every sin that a sailor knows, 
he had gone to the bottom of. Several times he had been hauled 
up in the hospitals, and as often, the great strength of his con- 
stitution had brought him out again in health. Several times, too, 
from his known capacity, he had been promoted to the office of 
chief mate, and as often, his conduct when in port, especially his 
drunkenness, which neither fear nor ambition could induce him to 
abandon, put him back into the forecastle. One night, when giving 
me an account of his life, and lamenting the years of manhood he 
had thrown away, he said that there, in the forecastle, at the foot 
of the steps — a chest of old clothes — was the result of twenty-two 
years of hard labor and exposure — worked like a horse, and treated 
like a dog. As he grew older, he began to feel the necessity of some 
provision for his later years, and came gradually to the conviction 
that rum had been his worst enemy. One night, in Havana, a 
young shipmate of his was brought aboard drunk, with a dangerous 
gash in his head, and his money and new clothes stripped from 
him. Harris had seen and been in hundreds of such scenes as these, 
but in his then state of mind, it fixed his determination, and he 
resolved never to taste another drop of strong drink, of any kind 
He signed no pledge, and made no vow, but relied on his own 
strength of purpose. The first thing with him was a reason, and then 



194 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

a resolution, and the thing was done. The date of his resolution he 
knew, o£ course, to the very hour. It was three years before I knew 
him, and during all that time, nothing stronger than cider or coffee 
had passed his lips. The sailors never thought of enticing Tom to 
take a glass, any more than they would of talking to the ship's com- 
pass. He was now a temperate man for life, and capable of filling any 
berth in a ship, and many a high station there is on shore which is 
held by a meaner man. 

He understood the management of a ship upon scientific prin- 
ciples, and could give the reason for hauling every rope; and a 
long experience, added to careful observation at the time, and a 
perfect memory, gave him a knowledge of the expedients and resorts 
in times of hazard, which was remarkable, and for which I became 
much indebted to him, as he took the greatest pleasure in opening 
his stores of information to me, in return for what I was able to do 
for him. Stories of tyranny and hardship which had driven men 
to piracy; — of the incredible ignorance of masters and mates, and 
of horrid brutality to the sick, dead, and dying; as well as of the 
secret knavery and impositions practised upon seamen by connivance 
of the owners, landlords, and officers; all these he had, and I could 
not but believe them; for men who had known him for fifteen 
years had never taken him even in an exaggeration, and, as I have 
said, his statements were never disputed. I remember, among other 
things, his speaking of a captain whom I had known by report, 
who never handed a thing to a sailor, but put it on deck and kicked 
it to him; and of another, who was of the best connections in 
Boston, who absolutely murdered a lad from Boston that went out 
with him before the mast to Sumatra, by keeping him hard at 
work while ill of the coast fever, and obliging him to sleep in the 
close steerage. (The same captain has since died of the same fever 
on the same coast.) 

In fact, taking together all that I learned from him of seamanship, 
of the history of sailors' hves, of practical wisdom, and of human 
nature under new circumstances, — a great history from which many 
are shut out, — I would not part with the hours I spent in the watch 
with that man for any given hours of my life passed in study and 
social intercourse. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

San Diego again — ^A Descent — Hurried Departure — ^A New 

Shipmate 

SUNDAY, Oct. uth. Set sail this morning for the leeward; 
passed within sight of San Pedro, and, to our great joy, did 
not come to anchor, but kept directly on to San Diego, where 
we arrived and moored ship on. 

Thursday, Oct. i^th. Found here the Italian ship La Rosa, from 
the windward, which reported the brig Pilgrim at San Francisco, 
all well. Everything was as quiet here as usual. We discharged our 
hides, horns, and tallow, and were ready to sail again on the follow- 
ing Sunday. I went ashore to my old quarters, and found the gang 
at the hide-house going on in the even tenor of their way, and spent 
an hour or two, after dark, at the oven, taking a whiff with my old 
Kanaka friends, who really seemed glad to see me again, and 
saluted me as the Aif^ane of the Kanakas. I was grieved to find 
that my poor dog Bravo was dead. He had sickened and died 
suddenly, the very day after I sailed in the Alert. 

Sunday was again, as usual, our sailing day, and we got under 
weigh with a stiff breeze, which reminded us that it was the latter 
part of the autumn, and time to expect south-easters once more. We 
beat up against a strong head wind, under reefed top-sails, as far 
as San Juan, where we came to anchor nearly three miles from 
the shore, with slip-ropes on our cables, in the old south-easter 
style of last winter. On the passage up, we had an old sea captain 
on board, who had married and settled in California, and had not 
been on salt water for more than fifteen years. He was astonished 
at the changes and improvements that had been made in ships, 
and still more at the manner in which we carried sail; for he was 
really a little frightened; and said that while we had top-gallant 
sails on, he should have been under reefed topsails. The work- 
ing of the ship, and her progress to windward, seemed to delight 

195 



196 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

him, for he said she went to windward as though she were 
kedging. 

Tuesday, Oct. 20th. Having got everything ready, we set the 
agent ashore, who went up to the mission to hasten down the hides 
for the next morning. This night we had the strictest orders to look 
out for south-easters; and the long, low clouds seemed rather 
threatening. But the night passed over without any trouble, and 
early the next morning, we hove out the long-boat and pinnace, 
lowered away the quarter-boats, and went ashore to bring off our 
hides. Here we were again, in this romantic spot; a perpendicular 
hill, twice the height of the ship's mast-head, with a single circuitous 
path to the top, and long sand beach at its base, with the swell of 
the whole Pacific breaking high upon it, and our hides ranged in 
piles on the overhanging summit. The captain sent me, who was 
the only one of the crew that had ever been there before, to the 
top, to count the hides and pitch them down. There I stood again, 
as six months before, throwing off the hides, and watching them, 
pitching and scaling, to the bottom, while the men, dwarfed by the 
distance, were walking to and fro on the beach, carrying the hides, 
as they picked them up, to the distant boats, upon the tops of their 
heads. Two or three boat-loads were sent off, until, at last, all were 
thrown down, and the boats nearly loaded again; when we were 
delayed by a dozen or twenty hides which had lodged in the recesses 
of the hill, and which we could not reach by any missiles, as the 
general line of the side was exactly perpendicular, and these places 
were caved in, and could not be seen or reached from the top. As 
hides are worth in Boston twelve and a half cents a pound, and the 
captain's commission was two per cent, he determined not to give 
them up; and sent on board for a pair of top-gallant studding-sail 
halyards, and requested some one of the crew to go to the top, and 
come down by the halyards. The older sailors said the boys, who 
were light and active, ought to go, while the boys thought that 
strength and experience were necessary. Seeing the dilemma, and 
feeling myself to be near the medium of these requisites, I offered 
my services, and went up, with one man to tend the rope, and pre- 
pared for the descent. 

We found a stake fastened strongly into the ground, and appar- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 97 

ently capable of holding my weight, to which we made one end of 
the halyards well fast, and taking the coil, threw it over the brink. 
The end, we saw, just reached to a landing-place, from which the 
descent to the beach was easy. Having nothing on but shirt, 
trowsers, and hat, the common sea-rig of warm weather, I had no 
stripping to do, and began my descent, by taking hold of the rope 
in each hand, and slipping down, sometimes with hands and feet 
round the rope, and sometimes breasting off with one hand and 
foot against the precipice, and holding on to the rope with the 
other. In this way I descended until I came to a place which shelved 
in, and in which the hides were lodged. Keeping hold of the rope 
with one hand, I scrambled in, and by the other hand and feet 
succeeded in dislodging all the hides, and continued on my way. 
Just below this place, the precipice projected again, and going over 
the projection, I could see nothing below me but the sea and the 
rocks upon which it broke, and a few gulls flying in mid-air. I got 
down in safety, pretty well covered with dirt; and for my pains was 
told, "What a d — d fool you were to risk your life for a half a dozen 
hides!" 

While we were carrying the hides to the boat, I perceived, what 
I had been too busy to observe before, that heavy black clouds were 
rolling up from seaward, a strong swell heaving in, and every sign 
of a south-easter. The captain hurried everything. The hides were 
pitched into the boats; and, with some difficulty, and by wading 
nearly up to our armpits, we got the boats through the surf, and 
began pulling aboard. Our gig's crew towed the pinnace astern 
of the gig, and the launch was towed by six men in the jolly-boat. 
The ship was lying three miles off, pitching at her anchor, and the 
farther we pulled, the heavier grew the swell. Our boat stood 
nearly up and down several times; the pinnace parted her tow- 
line, and we expected every moment to see the launch swamj>ed. 
We at length got alongside, our boats half full of water; and now 
came the greatest difficulty of all, — unloading the boats, in a heavy 
sea, which pitched them about so that it was almost impossible to 
stand in them; raising them sometimes even with the rail, and again 
dropping them below the bends. With great difficulty, we got all 
the hides aboard and stowed under hatches, the yard and stay tackles 



198 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

hooked on, and the launch and pinnace hoisted, checked, and griped. 
The quarter-boats were then hoisted up, and we began heaving, in 
on the chain. Getting the anchor was no easy work in such a sea, 
but as we were not coming back to this port, the captain determined 
not to sUp. The ship's head pitched into the sea, and the water 
rushed through the hawse-holes, and the chain surged so as almost 
to unship the barrel of the windlass. "Hove short, sir!" said the 
mate. "Aye, aye! Weather-bit your chain and loose the topsails! 
Make sail on her, men — with a will!" A few moments served to 
loose the topsails, which were furled with reefs, to sheet them home, 
and hoist them up. "Bear a hand!" was the order of the day; and 
every one saw the necessity of it, for the gale was already upon us. 
The ship broke out her own anchor, which we catted and fished, 
after a fashion, and stood off from the lee-shore against a heavy 
head sea, under reefed topsails, fore-topmast staysail and spanker. 
The fore course was given to her, which helped her a little; but 
as she hardly held her own against the sea which was settling her 
leeward — "Board the main tack!" shouted the captain; when the 
tack was carried forward and taken to the windlass, and all hands 
called to the handspikes. The great sail bellied out horizontally 
as though it would lift up the main stay; the blocks rattled and flew 
about; but the force of machinery was too much for her. "Heave 
ho! Heave and pawl! Yo, heave, hearty, ho!" and, in time with 
the song, by the force of twenty strong arms, the windlass came 
slowly round, pawl after pawl, and the weather clew of the sail 
was brought down to the waterways. The starboard watch hauled 
aft the sheet, and the ship tore through the water like a mad horse, 
quivering and shaking at every joint, and dashing from its head 
the foam, which flew off at every blow, yards and yards to leeward. 
A half hour of such sailing served our turn, when the clews of the 
sail were hauled up, the sail furled, and the ship, eased of her press, 
went more quietly on her way. Soon after, the foresail was reefed, 
and we mizen-top men were sent up to take another reef in the 
mizen topsail. This was the first time I had taken a weather earing, 
and I felt not a little proud to sit, astride of the weather yard-arm, 
pass the earing, and sing out "Haul out to leeward!" From this 
time until we got to Boston, the mate never suffered any one but 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 1 99 

our own gang to go upon the mizen topsail yard, either for reefing 
or furhng, and the young EngUsh lad and myself generally took 
the earings between us. 

Having cleared the point and got well out to sea, we squared 
away the yards, made more sail, and stood on, nearly before the 
wind, for San Pedro. It blew strong, with some rain, nearly all 
night, but foil calm toward morning, and the gale having gone 
over, we came-to, — 

Thursday, Oct. 22d, at San Pedro, in the old south-easter berth, a 
league from shore, with a slip-rope on the cable, reefs in the top- 
sails, and rope-yarns for gaskets. Here we lay ten days, with the 
usual boating, hide-carrying, rolling of cargo up the steep hill, 
walking barefooted over stones, and getting drenched in salt water. 

The third day after our arrival, the Rosa came in from San Juan, 
where she went the day after the south-easter. Her crew said it was 
as smooth as a mill-pond, after the gale, and she took off nearly a 
thousand hides, which had been brought down for us, and which 
we lost in consequence of the south-easter. This mortified us; not 
only that an Italian ship should have got to windward of us in the 
trade, but because every thousand hides went toward completing the 
forty thousand which we were to collect before we could say good-by 
to California. 

While lying here, we shipped one new hand, an Englishman, of 
about two or three and twenty, who was quite an acquisition, as he 
proved to be a good sailor, could sing tolerably, and, what was of 
more importance to me, had a good education, and a somewhat 
remarkable history. He called himself George P. Marsh; professed 
to have been at sea from a small boy, and to have served his time in 
the smuggling trade between Germany and the coasts of France and 
England. Thus he accounted for his knowledge of the French 
language, which he spoke and read as well as he did English; but 
his cutter education would not account for his English, which was 
far too good to have been learned in a smuggler; for he wrote an 
uncommonly handsome hand, spoke with great correctness, and 
frequently, when in private talk with me, quoted from books, and 
showed a knowledge of the customs of society, and particularly of 
the formalities of the various English courts of law, and of Parlia- 



200 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

ment, which surprised me. Still, he would give no other account of 
himself than that he was educated in a smuggler. A man whom we 
afterwards fell in with, who had been a shipmate of George's a 
few years before, said that he heard at the boarding-house from 
which they shipped, that George had been at college, (probably a 
naval one, as he knew no Latin or Greek,) where he learned French 
and mathematics. He was by no means the man by nature that 
Harris was. Harris had made everything of his mind and character 
in spite of obstacles; while this man had evidently been born in a 
different rank, and educated early in life accordingly, but had been 
a vagabond, and done nothing for himself since. What had been 
given to him by others, was all that made him to differ from those 
about him; while Harris had made himself what he was. Neither 
had George the character, strength of mind, acuteness, or memory 
of Harris; yet there was about him the remains of a pretty good 
education, which enabled him to talk perhaps beyond his brains, 
and a high spirit and sense of honor, which years of a dog's life 
had not broken. After he had been a little while on board, we 
learned from him his remarkable history, for the last two years, 
which we afterwards heard confirmed in such a manner, as put 
the truth of it beyond a doubt. 

He sailed from New York in the year 1833, if I mistake not, 
before the mast, in the brig Lascar, for Canton. She was sold in 
the East Indies, and he shipped at Manilla, in a small schooner, 
bound on a trading voyage among the Ladrone and Pelew Islands. 
On one of the latter islands, their schooner was wrecked on a reef, 
and they were attacked by the natives, and, after a desperate re- 
sistance, in which all their number except the captain, George, and 
a boy, were killed or drowned, they surrendered, and were carried 
bound, in a canoe, to a neighboring island. In about a month after 
this, an opportunity occurred by which one of their number might 
get away. I have forgotten the circumstances, but only one could go, 
and they yielded to the captain, upon his promising to send them aid 
if he escaped. He was successful in his attempt; got on board an 
American vessel, went back to Manilla, and thence to America, with- 
out making any effort for their rescue, or indeed, as George after- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 201 

wards discovered, without even mentioning their case to any one in 
Manilla. The boy that was with George died, and he being alone, 
and there being no chance for his escape, the natives soon treated 
him with kindness, and even with attention. They painted him, 
tattooed his body, (for he would never consent to be marked in the 
face or hands,) gave him two or three wives; and, in fact, made quite 
a pet of him. In this way, he lived for thirteen months, in a fine 
climate, with a plenty to eat, half naked, and nothing to do. He 
soon, however, became tired, and went round the island, on different 
pretences, to look out for a sail. One day, he was out fishing in a 
small canoe with another man, when he saw a large sail to the 
windward, about a league and a half off, passing abreast of the 
island and standing westward. With some difficulty, he persuaded 
the islander to go off with him to the ship, promising to return 
with a good supply of rum and tobacco. These articles, which the 
islanders had got a taste of from American traders, were too strong 
a temptation for the fellow, and he consented. They paddled off 
in the track of the ship, and lay-to until she came down to them. 
George stepped on board the ship, nearly naked, painted from head 
to foot, and in no way distinguishable from his companion until 
he began to speak. Upon this, the people on board were not a little 
astonished; and, having learned his story, the captain had him washed 
and clothed, and sending away the poor astonished native with a 
knife or two and some tobacco and calico, took George with him 
on the voyage. This was the ship Cabot, of New York, Captain Low. 
She was bound to Manilla, from across the Pacific, and George did 
seaman's duty in her until her arrival in Manilla, when he left her, 
and shipped in a brig bound to the Sandwich Islands. From Oahu, 
he came, in the British brig Clementine, to Monterey, as second 
officer, where, having some difficulty with the captain, he left her, 
and coming down the coast, joined us at San Pedro. Nearly six 
months after this, among some papers we received by an arrival 
from Boston, we found a letter from Captain Low, of the Cabot, 
published immediately upon his arrival at New York, and giving 
all the particulars just as we had them from George. The letter was 
published for the information of the friends of George, and Captain 



202 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

Low added, that he left him at Manilla to go to Oahu, and he had 
heard nothing of him since. 

George had an interesting journal of his adventures in the Pelew 
Islands, which he had written out at length, in a handsome hand, 
and in correct English. 



CHAPTER XXV 

Rumors of War — ^A Spouter — Slipping for a South-easter — 

A Gale 

SUNDAY, November ist. Sailed this day, (Sunday again,) for 
Santa Barbara, where we arrived on the 5th. Coming round 
St. Buenaventura, and nearing the anchorage, we saw two 
vessels in port, a large full-rigged, and a small hermaphrodite brig. 
The former, the crew said must be the Pilgrim; but I had been 
too long in the Pilgrim to be mistaken in her, and I was right in 
differing from them; for, upon nearer approach, her long, low shear, 
sharp bows, and raking masts, told quite another story. "Man-of- 
war brig," said some of them; "Baltimore clipper," said others; the 
Ayacucho, thought I; and soon the broad folds of the beautiful 
banner of St. George, — white field with blood-red border and 
cross, — ^were displayed from her peak. A few minutes put it beyond 
a doubt, and we were lying by the side of the Ayacucho, which had 
sailed from San Diego about nine months before, while we were 
lying there in the Pilgrim. She had since been to Valparaiso, Callao, 
and the Sandwich Islands, and had just come upon the coast. Her 
boat came on board, bringing Captain Wilson; and in half an 
hour the news was all over the ship that there was a war between 
the United States and France. Exaggerated accounts reached the 
forecastle. Battles had been fought, a large French fleet was in the 
Pacific, etc., etc.; and one of the boat's crew of the Ayacucho said 
that when they left Callao, a large French frigate and the American 
frigate Brandywine, which were lying there, were going outside to 
have a battle, and that the English frigate Blonde was to be umpire, 
and see fair play. Here was important news for us. Alone, on an 
unprotected coast, without an American man-of-war within some 
thousands of miles, and the prospect of a voyage home through the 
whole length of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans! A French prison 
seemed a much more probable place of destination than the good 

203 



204 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

port of Boston. However, we were too salt to believe every yarn that 
comes into the forecastle, and waited to hear the truth of the matter 
from higher authority. By means of a supercargo's clerk, I got the 
account of the matter, which was, that the governments had had 
difficulty about the payment of a debt; that war had been threatened 
and prepared for, but not actually declared, although it was pretty 
generally anticipated. This was not quite so bad, yet was no small 
cause of anxiety. But we cared very little about the matter our- 
selves. "Happy go lucky" with Jack! We did not believe that a 
French prison would be much worse than "hide-droghing" on the 
coast of California; and no one who has not been on a long, dull 
voyage, shut up in one ship, can conceive of the effect of monotony 
upon one's thoughts and wishes. The prospect of a change is like 
a green spot in a desert, and the remotest probability of great events 
and exciting scenes gives a feeling of delight, and sets life in motion, 
so as to give a pleasure, which any one not in the same state would 
be entirely unable to account for. In fact, a more jovial night we 
had not passed in the forecastle for months. Every one seemed in 
unaccountably high spirits. An undefined anticipation of radical 
changes, of new scenes, and great doings, seemed to have possessed 
every one, and the common drudgery of the vessel appeared con- 
temptible. Here was a new vein opened; a grand theme of con- 
versation, and a topic for all sorts of discussions. National feeling 
was wrought up. Jokes were cracked upon the only Frenchman in 
the ship, and comparisons made between "old horse" and "soup 
meagre," etc., etc. 

We remained in uncertainty as to this war for more than two 
months, when an arrival from the Sandwich Islands brought us 
the news of an amicable arrangement of the difficulties. 

The other vessel which we found in port was the hermaphrodite 
brig Avon, from the Sandwich Islands. She was fitted up in hand- 
some style; fired a gun and ran her ensign up and down at sunrise 
and sunset; had a band of four or five pieces of music on board, and 
appeared rather like a pleasure yacht than a trader; yet, in connection 
with the Loriotte, Clementine, BoHvar, Convoy, and other small 
vessels, belonging to sundry Americans at Oahu, she carried on a 
great trade — ^legal and illegal — in otter skins, silks, teas, specie, etc. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 205 

The second day after our arrival, a full-rigged brig came round 
the point from the northward, sailed leisurely through the bay, and 
stood off again for the south-east, in the direction of the large island 
of Catalina. The next day the Avon got under weigh, and stood in 
the same direction, bound for San Pedro. This might do for marines 
and Californians, but we knew the ropes too well. The brig was 
never again seen on the coast, and the Avon arrived at San Pedro 
in about a week, with a full cargo of Canton and American goods. 

This was one of the means of escaping the heavy duties the Mexi- 
cans lay upon all imports. A vessel comes on the coast, enters a 
moderate cargo at Monterey, which is the only custom-house, and 
commences trading. In a month or more, having sold a large part 
of her cargo, she stretches over to Catalina, or other of the large 
uninhabited islands which lie off the coast, in a trip from port to 
port, and supplies herself with choice goods from a vessel from 
Oahu, which has been lying off and on the islands, waiting for 
her. Two days after the sailing of the Avon, the Loriotte came 
in from the leeward, and without doubt had also a snatch at the 
brig's cargo. 

Tuesday, Nov. loth. Going ashore, as usual, in the gig, just 
before sundown, to bring off the captain, we found, upon taking 
in the captain and pulling off again, that our ship, which lay the 
farthest out, had run up her ensign. This meant "Sail ho!" of 
course, but as we were within the point we could see nothing. 
"Give way, boys! Give way! Lay out on your oars, and long 
stroke!" said the captain; and stretching to the whole length of 
our arms, bending back again, so that our backs touched the thwarts, 
we sent her through the water like a rocket. A few minutes of such 
pulling opened the islands, one after another, in range of the point, 
and gave us a view of the Canal, where was a ship, under top-gallant 
sails, standing in, with a light breeze, for the anchorage. Putting 
the boat's head in the direction of the ship, the captain told us to 
lay out again; and we needed no spurring, for the prospect of 
boarding a new ship, perhaps from home, hearing the news and 
having something to tell of when we got back, was excitement 
enough for us, and we gave way with a will. Captain Nye, of the 
Loriotte, who had been an old whaleman, was in the stern-sheets. 



206 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

and fell mightily into the spirit of it. "Bend your backs and break 
your oars!" said he. "Lay me on, Captain Bunker!" "There she 
flukes!" and other exclamations, peculiar to whalemen. In the mean- 
time, it fell flat calm, and being within a couple of miles of the 
ship, we expected to board her in a few moments, when a sudden 
breeze sprung up, dead ahead for the ship, and she braced up and 
stood off toward the islands, sharp on the larboard tack, making 
good way through the water. This, of course, brought us up, and 
we had only to "ease larboard oars; pull round starboard!" and go 
aboard the Alert, with something very like a flea in the ear. There 
was a light land-breeze all night, and the ship did not come to 
anchor until the next morning. As soon as her anchor was down, 
we went aboard, and found her to be the whaleship, Wilmington 
and Liverpool Packet, of New Bedford, last from the "off-shore 
ground," with nineteen hundred barrels of oil. A "spouter" we 
knew her to be as soon as we saw her, by her cranes and boats, 
and by her stump top-gallant masts, and a certain slovenly look 
to the sails, rigging, spars and hull; and when we got on board, 
we found everything to correspond, — spouter fashion. She had a 
false deck, which was rough and oily, and cut up in every direction 
by the chimes of oil casks; her rigging was slack and turning white; 
no paint on the spars or blocks; clumsy seizings and straps without 
covers, and homeward-bound splices in every direction. Her crew, 
too, were not in much better order. Her captain was a slab-sided, 
shamble-legged Quaker, in a suit of brown, with a broad-brimmed 
hat, and sneaking about decks, like a sheep, with his head down; 
and the men looked more like fishermen and farmers than they 
did like sailors. 

Though it was by no means cold weather, (we having on only 
our red shirts and duck trowsers,) they all had on woollen trowsers 
— not blue and ship-shape — ^but of all colors — brown, drab, grey, 
aye, and green, with suspenders over their shoulders, and pockets 
to put their hands in. This, added to guernsey frocks, striped com- 
forters about the neck, thick cowhide boots, woollen caps, and a 
strong, oily smell, and a decidedly green look, will complete the 
description. Eight or ten were on the fore-topsail yard, and as many 
more in the main, furling the topsails, while eight or ten were 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 10'J 

hanging about the forecastle, doing nothing. This was a strange 
sight for a vessel coming to anchor; so we went up to them, to see 
what was the matter. One of them, a stout, hearty-looking fellow, 
held out his leg and said he had the scurvy; another had cut his 
hand; and others had got nearly well, but said that there were 
plenty aloft to furl the sails, so they were sogering on the forecastle. 
There was only one "splicer" on board, a fine-looking old tar, who 
was in the bunt of the fore-topsail. He was probably the only sailor 
in the ship, before the mast. The mates, of course, and the boat- 
steerers, and also two or three of the crew, had been to sea before, 
but only whaling voyages; and the greater part of the crew were 
raw hands, just from the bush, as green as cabbages, and had not yet 
got the hay-seed out of their heads. The mizen topsail hung in the 
bunt-lines until everything was furled forward. Thus a crew of 
thirty men were half an hour in doing what would have been done 
in the Alert with eighteen hands to go aloft, in fifteen or twenty 
minutes. 

We found they had been at sea six or eight months, and had no 
news to tell us; so we left them, and promised to get liberty to 
come on board in the evening, for some curiosities, etc. Accordingly, 
as soon as we were knocked off in the evening and had got supper, 
we obtained leave, took a boat, and went aboard and spent an hour 
or two. They gave us pieces of whalebone, and the teeth and other 
parts of curious sea animals, and we exchanged books with them — 
a practice very common among ships in foreign ports, by which you 
get rid of the books you have read and re-read, and a supply of new 
ones in their stead, and Jack is not very nice as to their comparative 
value. 

Thursday, Nov. 12th. This day was quite cool in the early part, 
and there were black clouds about; but as it was often so in the 
morning, nothing was apprehended, and all the captains went 
ashore together, to spend the day. Towards noon, the clouds hung 
heavily over the mountains, coming half way down the hills that 
encircle the town of Santa Barbara, and a heavy swell rolled in from 
the south-east. The mate immediately ordered the gig's crew away, 
and at the same time, we saw boats pulling ashore from the other 
vessels. Here was a grand chance for a rowing match, and every 



208 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

one did his best. We passed the boats of the Ayacucho and Loriotte, 
but could gain nothing upon, and indeed, hardly hold our own with, 
the long, six-oared boat of the whale-ship. They reached the break- 
ers before us; but here we had the advantage of them, for, not being 
used to the surf, they were obhged to wait to see us beach our boat, 
just as, in the same place, nearly a year before, we, in the Pilgrim, 
were glad to be taught by a boat's crew of Kanakas. 

We had hardly got the boats beached, and their heads out, before 
our old friend, Bill Jackson, the handsome English sailor, who 
steered the Loriotte's boat, called out that the brig was adrift; and, 
sure enough, she was dragging her anchors, and drifting down into 
the bight of the bay. Without waiting for the captain, (for there 
was no one on board but the mate and steward,) he sprung into 
the boat, called the Kanakas together, and tried to put off. But the 
Kanakas, though capital water-dogs, were frightened by their vessel's 
being adrift, and by the emergency of the case, and seemed to lose 
their faculties. Twice, their boat filled, and came broadside upon 
the beach. Jackson swore at them for a parcel of savages, and 
promised to flog every one of them. This made the matter no 
better; when we came forward, told the Kanakas to take their seats 
in the boat, and, going two on each side, walked out with her till 
it was up to our shoulders, and gave them a shove, when, giving 
way with their oars, they got her safely into the long, regular swell. 
In the mean time, boats had put off from our ships and the whaler, 
and coming all on board the brig together, they let go the other 
anchor, paid out chain, braced the yards to the wind, and brought 
the vessel up. 

In a few minutes, the captains came hurrying down, on the run; 
and there was no time to be lost, for the gale promised to be a severe 
one, and the surf was breaking upon the beach, three deep, higher 
and higher every instant. The Ayacucho's boat, pulled by four 
Kanakas, put off first, and as they had no rudder or steering oar, 
would probably never have got off, had we not waded out with 
them, as far as the surf would permit. The next that made the 
attempt was the whale-boat, for we, being the most experienced 
"beach-combers," needed no help, and staid till the last. Whalemen 
make the best boats' crews in the world for a long pull, but this 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 209 

landing was new to them, and notwithstanding the examples they 
had had, they slued round and were hove up — boat, oars, and men 
— altogether, high and dry upon the sand. The second time, they 
filled, and had to turn their boat over, and set her off again. We 
could be of no help to them, for they were so many as to be in one 
another's way, without the addition of our numbers. The third 
time, they got off, though not without shipping a sea which drenched 
them all, and half filled their boat, keeping them baling, until they 
reached their ship. We now got ready to go off, putting the boat's 
head out; English Ben and I, who were the largest, standing on 
each side of the bows, to keep her "head on" to the sea, two more 
shipping and manning the two after oars, and the captain taking the 
steering oar. Two or three Spaniards, who stood upon the beach 
looking at us, wrapped their cloaks about them, shook their heads, 
and muttered "Caramba!" They had no taste for such doings; in 
fact, the hydrophobia is a national malady, and shows itself in their 
persons as well as their actions. 

Watching for a "smooth chance," we determined to show the 
other boats the way it should be done; and, as soon as ours floated, 
ran out with her, keeping her head on, with all our strength, and 
the help of the captain's oar, and the two after oarsmen giving way 
regularly and strongly, until our feet were off the ground, we 
tumbled into the bows, keeping perfectly still, from fear of hinder- 
ing the others. For some time it was doubtful how it would go. 
The boat stood nearly up and down in the water, and the sea, rolling 
from under her, let her fall upon the water with a force which 
seemed almost to stave her bottom in. By quietly sliding two oars 
forward, along the thwarts, without impeding the rowers, we shipped 
two bow oars, and thus, by the help of four oars and the captain's 
strong arm, we got safely off, though we shipped several seas, which 
left us half full of water. We pulled alongside of the Loriotte, put 
her skipper on board, and found her making preparations for 
slipping, and then pulled aboard our own ship. Here Mr. Brown, 
always "on hand," had got everything ready, so that we had only 
to hook on the gig and hoist it up, when the order was given to 
loose the sails. While we were on the yards, we saw the Loriotte 
under weigh, and before our yards were mast-headed, the Ayacucho 



210 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

had spread her wings, and, with yards braced sharp up, was stand- 
ing athwart our hawse. There is no prettier sight in the world 
than a full-rigged, clipper-built brig, sailing sharp on the wind. In 
a moment, our slip-rope was gone, the head-yards filled away, and 
we were off. Next came the whaler; and in a half an hour from the 
time when four vessels were lying quietly at anchor, without a rag 
out, or a sign of motion, the bay was deserted, and four white 
clouds were standing off to sea. Being sure of clearing the point, we 
stood off with our yards a little braced in, while the Ayacucho went 
off with a taught bowline, which brought her to windward of us. 
During all this day, and the greater part of the night, we had the 
usual south-easter entertainment, a gale of wind, variegated and 
finally topped off with a drenching rain of three or four hours. At 
daybreak, the clouds thinned off and rolled away, and the sun came 
up clear. The wind, instead of coming out from the northward, 
as is usual, blew steadily and freshly from the anchoring-ground. 
This was bad for us, for, being "flying light," with little more than 
ballast trim, we were in no condition for showing off on a taught 
bowline, and had depended upon a fair wind, with which, by the 
help of our light sails and studding-sails, we meant to have been 
the first at the anchoring-ground; but the Ayacucho was a good 
league to windward of us, and was standing in, in fine style. The 
whaler, however, was as far to leeward of us, and the Loriotte was 
nearly out of sight, among the islands, up the Canal. By hauling 
every brace and bowline, and clapping watch-tackles upon all the 
sheets and halyards, we managed to hold our own, and drop the 
leeward vessels a little in every tack. When we reached the anchor- 
ing-ground, the Ayacucho had got her anchor, furled her sails, 
squared her yards, and was lying as quietly as if nothing had hap- 
pened for the last twenty-four hours. 

We had our usual good luck in getting our anchor without letting 
go another, and were all snug, with our boats at the boom-ends, in 
half an hour. In about two hours more, the whaler came in, and 
made a clumsy piece of work in getting her anchor, being obliged 
to let go her best bower, and finally, to get out a kedge and a hawser. 
They were heave-ho-ing, stopping and unstopping, pawling, catting, 
and fishing, for three hours; and the sails hung from the yards all 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 211 

the afternoon, and were not furled until sundown. The Loriotte 
came in just after dark, and let go her anchor, making no attempt 
to pick up the other until the next day. 

This affair led to a great dispute as to the saihng of our ship and 
the Ayacucho. Bets were made between the captains, and the 
crews took it up in their own way; but as she was bound to leeward 
and we to windward, and merchant captains cannot deviate, a trial 
never took place; and perhaps it was well for us that it did not, for 
the Ayacucho had been eight years in the Pacific, in every part of it 
— Valparaiso, Sandwich Islands, Canton, California, and all, and 
was called the fastest merchantman that traded in the Pacific, unless 
it was the brig John Gilpin, and perhaps the ship Ann McKim of 
Baltimore. 

Saturday, Nov. j^t/i. This day we got under weigh, with the 
agent and several Spaniards of note, as passengers, bound up to 
Monterey. We went ashore in the gig to bring them off with their 
baggage, and found them waiting on the beach, and a little afraid 
about going off, as the surf was running very high. This was nuts 
to us; for we liked to have a Spaniard wet with salt water; and then 
the agent was very much disliked by the crew, one and all; and we 
hoped, as there was no officer in the boat, to have a chance to duck 
them; for we knew that they were such "marines" that they would 
not know whether it was our fault or not. Accordingly, we kept 
the boat so far from shore as to oblige them to wet their feet in 
getting into her; and then waited for a good high comber, and 
letting the head slue a little round, sent the whole force of the sea 
into the stern-sheets, drenching them from head to feet. The 
Spaniards sprang out of the boat, swore, and shook themselves and 
protested against trying it again; and it was with the greatest diffi- 
culty that the agent could prevail upon them to make another 
attempt. The next time we took care, and went off easily enough, 
and pulled aboard. The crew came to the side to hoist in their 
baggage, and we gave them the wink, and they heartily enjoyed 
the half-drowned looks of the company. 

Everything being now ready, and the passengers aboard, we ran 
up the ensign and broad pennant, (for there was no man-of-war, 
and we were the largest vessel on the coast,) and the other vessels 



212 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

ran up their ensigns. Having hove short, cast of? the gaskets, and 
made the bunt of each sail fast by the jigger, with a man on each 
yard; at the word, the whole canvas of the ship was loosed, and with 
the greatest rapidity possible, everything was sheeted home and 
hoisted up, the anchor tripped and catheaded, and the ship under 
headway. We were determined to show the "spouter" how things 
could be done in a smart ship, with a good crew, though not more 
than half their number. The royal yards were all crossed at once, 
and royals and skysails set, and, as we had the wind free, the booms 
were run out, and every one was aloft, active as cats, laying out on 
the yards and booms, reeving the studding-sail gear; and sail after 
sail the captain piled upon her, until she was covered with canvas, 
her sails looking like a great white cloud resting upon a black speck. 
Before we doubled the point, we were going at a dashing rate, and 
leaving the shipping far astern. We had a fine breeze to take us 
through the Canal, as they call this bay of forty miles long by ten 
wide. The breeze died away at night, and we were becalmed all 
day on Sunday, about half way between Santa Barbara and Point 
Conception. Sunday night we had a light, fair wind, which set us 
up again; and having a fine sea-breeze on the first part of Monday, 
we had the prospect of passing, without any trouble. Point Concep- 
tion, — the Cape Horn of California, where it begins to blow the 
first of January, and blows all the year round. Toward the latter 
part of the afternoon, however, the regular northwest wind, as 
usual, set in, which brought in our studding-sails, and gave us the 
chance of beating round the Point, which we were now just abreast 
of, and which stretched off into the Pacific, high, rocky and barren, 
forming the central point of the coast for hundreds of miles north 
and south. A cap-full of wind will be a bag-full here, and before 
night our royals were furled, and the ship was laboring hard under 
her top-gallant sails. At eight bells our watch went below, leaving 
her with as much sail as she could stagger under, the water flying 
over the forecastle at every plunge. It was evidently blowing harder, 
but then there was not a cloud in the sky, and the sun had gone 
down bright. 

We had been below but a short time, before we had the usual 
premonitions of a coming gale: seas washing over the whole 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 213 

forward part of the vessel, and her bows beating against them with 
a force and sound Hke the driving of piles. The watch, too, seemed 
very busy trampling about decks, and singing out at the ropes. A 
sailor can always tell, by the sound, what sail is coming in, and, in 
a short time, we heard the top-gallant sails come in, one after 
another, and then the flying jib. This seemed to ease her a good 
deal, and we were fast going off to the land of Nod, when — bang, 
bang, bang — on the scuttle, and "All hands, reef topsails, ahoy!" 
started us out of our berths; and, it not being very cold weather, we 
had nothing extra to put on, and were soon on deck. I shall never 
forget the fineness of the sight. It was a clear, and rather a chilly 
night; the stars were twinkling with an intense brightness, and 
as far as the eye could reach, there was not a cloud to be seen. The 
horizon met the sea in a defined line. A painter could not have 
painted so clear a sky. There was not a speck upon it. Yet it was 
blowing great guns from the north-west. When you can see a cloud 
to windward, you feel that there is a place for the wind to come 
from; but here it seemed to come from nowhere. No person could 
have told, from the heavens, by their eyesight alone, that it was not 
a still summer's night. One reef after another, we took in the top- 
sails, and before we could get them hoisted up, we heard a 
sound like a short, quick rattling of thunder, and the jib was blown 
to atoms out of the bolt-rope. We got the topsails set, and the frag- 
ments of the jib stowed away, and the fore-topmast staysail set in 
its place, when the great mainsail gaped open, and the sail ripped 
from head to foot. "Lay up on that main-yard and furl the sail, 
before it blows to tatters!" shouted the captain; and in a moment, 
we were up, gathering the remains of it upon the yard. We got it 
wrapped, round the yard, and passed gaskets over it as snugly as 
possible, and were just on deck again, when, with another loud rent, 
which was heard throughout the ship, the fore-topsail, which had 
been double-reefed, split in two, athwartships, just below the reef- 
band, from earing to earing. Here again it was down yard, haul 
out reef-tackles, and lay out upon the yard for reefing. By hauling 
the reef-tackles chock-a-block, we took the strain from the other 
earings, and passing the close-reef earing, and knotting the points 
carefully, we succeeded in setting the sail, close-reefed. 



214 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

We had but just got the rigging coiled up, and were waiting to 
hear "go below the watch!" when the main royal worked loose 
from the gaskets, and blew directly out to leeward, flapping, and 
shaking the mast like a wand. Here was a job for somebody. The 
royal must come in or be cut adrift, or the mast would be snapped 
short off. All the light hands in the starboard watch were sent up, 
one after another, but they could do nothing with it. At length, 
John, the tall Frenchman, the head of the starboard watch, (and a 
better sailor never stepped upon a deck,) sprang aloft, and, by the 
help of his long arms and legs, succeeded, after a hard struggle, — 
the sail blowing over the yard-arm to leeward, and the skysail blow- 
ing directly over his head, — in smothering it, and trapping it with 
long pieces of sinnet. He came very near being blown or shaken 
from the yard, several times, but he was a true sailor, every finger a 
fish-hook. Having made the sail snug, he prepared to send the yard 
down, which was a long and difficult job; for, frequently, he was 
obliged to stop and hold on with all his might, for several minutes, 
the ship pitching so as to make it impossible to do anything else 
at that height. The yard at length came down safe, and after it, the 
fore and mizen royal-yards were sent down. All hands were then 
sent aloft, and for an hour or two we were hard at work, making 
the booms well fast; unreeving the studding-sail and royal and sky- 
sail gear; getting rolling-ropes on the yards; setting up the weather 
breast-backstays; and making other preparations for a storm. It 
was a fine night for a gale; just cool and bracing enough for quick 
work, without being cold, and as bright as day. It was sport to 
have a gale in such weather as this. Yet it blew like a hurricane. 
The wind seemed to come with a spite, an edge to it, which threat- 
ened to scrape us off the yards. The mere force of the wind was 
greater than I had ever seen it before; but darkness, cold, and wet 
are the worst parts of a storm to a sailor. 

Having got on deck again, we looked round to see what time 
of night it was, and whose watch. In a few minutes the man at the 
wheel struck four bells, and we found that the other watch was out, 
and our own half out. Accordingly, the starboard watch went below, 
and left the ship to us for a couple of hours, yet with orders to stand 
by for a call. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 215 

Hardly had they got below, before away went the fore-topmast 
staysail, blown to ribbons. This was a small sail, which we could 
manage in the watch, so that we were not obliged to call up the other 
watch. We laid out upon the bowsprit, where we were under water 
half the time, and took in the fragments of the sail, and as she must 
have some head sail on her, prepared to bend another staysail. 
We got the new one out, into the nettings; seized on the tack, sheets, 
and halyards, and the hanks; manned the halyards, cut adrift the 
f rapping lines, and hoisted away; but before it was half way up the 
stay, it was blown all to pieces. When we belayed the halyards, there 
was nothing left but the bolt-rope. Now large eyes began to show 
themselves in the foresail, and knowing that it must soon go, the 
mate ordered us upon the yard to furl it. Being unwilling to call 
up the watch who had been on deck all night, he roused out the 
carpenter, sailmaker, cook, steward, and other idlers, and, with their 
help, we manned the foreyard, and after nearly half an hour's strug- 
gle, mastered the sail, and got it well furled round the yard. The 
force of the wind had never been greater than at this moment. In 
going up the rigging, it seemed absolutely to pin us down to the 
shrouds; and on the yard, there was no such thing as turning a face 
to windward. Yet here was no driving sleet, and darkness, and 
wet, and cold, as off Cape Horn; and instead of a stiff oil-cloth suit, 
south-wester caps, and thick boots, we had on hats, round jackets, 
duck trowsers, light shoes, and everything light and easy. All these 
things make a great difference to a sailor. When we got on deck, 
the man at the wheel struck eight bells, (four o'clock in the morn- 
ing,) and "All starbowlines, ahoy!" brought the other watch up. 
But there was no going below for us. The gale was now at its 
height, "blowing Uke scissors and thumb-screws;" the captain was 
on deck; the ship, which was light, rolling and pitching as though 
she would shake the long sticks out of her; and the sail gaping open 
and splitting, in every direction. The mizen topsail, which was a 
comparatively new sail, and close-reefed, split, from head to foot, in 
the bunt; the fore-topsail went, in one rent, from clew to earing, 
and was blowing to tatters; one of the chain bobstays parted; the 
spritsail-yard sprung in the slings; the martingale had slued away 
off to leeward; and, owing to the long dry weather, the lee rigging 



2l6 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

hung in large bights, at every lurch. One of the main top-gallant 
shrouds had parted; and, to crown all, the galley had got adrift, and 
gone over to leeward, and the anchor on the lee bow had worked 
loose, and was thumping the side. Here was work enough for all 
hands for half a day. Our gang laid out on the mizen topsail yard, 
and after more than half an hour's hard work, furled the sail, 
though it bellied out over our heads, and again, by a slant of the 
wind, blew in under the yard, with a fearful jerk, and almost threw 
us off from the foot-ropes. 

Double gaskets were passed round the yards, rolling tackles and 
other gear bowsed taught, and everything made as secure as could 
be. Coming down, we found the rest of the crew just coming down 
the fore rigging, having furled the tattered topsail, or, rather, 
swathed it round the yard, which looked like a broken limb, ban- 
daged. There was no sail now on the ship but the spanker and the 
close-reefed main topsail, which still held good. But this was too 
much after sail; and order was given to furl the spanker. The 
brails were hauled up, and all the light hands in the starboard 
watch sent out on the gaff to pass the gaskets; but they could do 
nothing with it. The second mate swore at them for a parcel of 
"sogers," and sent up a couple of the best men; but they could do 
no better, and the gaff was lowered down. All hands were now 
employed in setting up the lee rigging, fishing the spritsail-yard, 
lashing the galley, and getting tackles upon the martingale, to bowse 
it to windward. Being in the larboard watch, my duty was forward, 
to assist in setting up the martingale. Three of us were out on the 
martingale guys and back-ropes for more than half an hour, carry- 
ing out, hooking and unhooking the tackles, several times buried 
in the seas, until the mate ordered us in, from fear of our being 
washed off. The anchors were then to be taken up on the rail, 
which kept all hands on the forecastle for an hour, though every now 
and then the seas broke over it, washing the rigging off to leeward, 
filling the lee scuppers breast high, and washing chock aft to the 
taffrail. 

Having got everything secure again, we were promising ourselves 
some breakfast, for it was now nearly nine o'clock in the forenoon, 
when the main topsail showed evident signs of giving way. Some 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 21 7 

sail must be kept on the ship, and the captain ordered the fore and 
main spencer gaflFs to be lowered down, and the two spencers (which 
were storm sails, bran new, small, and made of the strongest canvas) 
to be got up and bent; leaving the main topsail to blow away, with a 
blessing on it, if it would only last until we could set the spencers. 
These we bent on very carefully, with strong robands and seizings, 
and making tackles fast to the clews, bowsed them down to the 
water-ways. By this time the main topsail was among the things 
that have been, and we went aloft to stow away the remnant of the 
last sail of all those which were on the ship twenty-four hours before. 
The spencers were now the only whole sails on the ship, and, being 
strong and small, and near the deck, presenting but little surface to 
the wind above the rail, promised to hold out well. Hove-to under 
these, and eased by having no sail above the tops, the ship rose and 
fell, and drifted off to leeward like a line-of-battle ship. 

It was now eleven o'clock, and the watch was sent below to get 
breakfast, and at eight bells (noon), as everything was snug, al- 
though the gale had not in the least abated, the watch was set, and 
the other watch and idlers sent below. For three days and three 
nights, the gale continued with unabated fury, and with singular 
regularity. There was no lulls, and very little variation in its fierce- 
ness. Our ship, being light, rolled so as almost to send the fore 
yard-arm under water, and drifted off bodily, to leeward. All this 
time there was not a cloud to be seen in the sky, day or night; — no, 
not so large as a man's hand. Every morning the sun rose cloudless 
from the sea, and set again at night, in the sea, in a flood of light. 
The stars, too, came out of the blue, one after another, night after 
night, unobscured, and twinkled as clear as on a still frosty night at 
home, until the day came upon them. All this time, the sea was 
rolling in immense surges, white with foam, as far as the eye could 
reach, on every side, for we were now leagues and leagues from 
shore. 

The between-decks being empty, several of us slept there in ham- 
mocks, which are the best things in the world to sleep in during a 
storm; it not being true of them, as it is of another kind of bed, 
"when the wind blows, the cradle will rock;" for it is the ship that 
rocks, while they always hang vertically from the beams. During 



21 8 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

these seventy-two hours we had nothing to do, but to turn in and 
out, four hours on deck, and four below, eat, sleep, and keep watch. 
The watches were only varied by taking the helm in turn, and now 
and then, by one of the sails, which were furled, blowing out of the 
gaskets, and getting adrift, which sent us up on the yards; and by 
getting tackles on different parts of the rigging, which were slack. 
Once, the wheel-rope parted, which might have been fatal to us, 
had not the chief mate sprung instantly with a relieving tackle to 
windward, and kept the tiller up, till a new one could be rove. On 
the morning of the twentieth, at daybreak, the gale had evidently 
done its worst, and had somewhat abated; so much so, that all hands 
were called to bend new sails, although it was still blowing as hard 
as two common gales. One at a time, and with great difficulty and 
labor, the old sails were unbent and sent down by the bunt-lines, 
and three new topsails, made for the homeward passage round Cape 
Horn, and which had never been bent, were got up from the sail- 
room, and under the care of the sailmaker, were fitted for bending, 
and sent up by the halyards into the tops, and, with stops and frap- 
ping lines, were bent to the yards, close-reefed, sheeted home, and 
hoisted. These were done one at a time, and with the greatest care and 
difficulty. Two spare courses were then got up and bent in the same 
manner and furled, and a storm-jib, with the bonnet off, bent and 
furled to the boom. It was twelve o'clock before we got through; 
and five hours of more exhausting labor I never experienced; and 
no one of that ship's crew, I vwll venture to say, will ever desire 
again to unbend and bend five large sails, in the teeth of a tremendous 
north-wester. Towards night, a few clouds appeared in the horizon, 
and as the gale moderated, the usual appearance of driving clouds 
relieved the face of the sky. The fifth day after the commencement 
of the storm, we shook a reef out of each topsail, and set the reefed 
foresail, jib and spanker; but it was not until after eight days of 
reefed topsails that we had a whole sail on the ship; and then it was 
quite soon enough, for the captain was anxious to make up for 
leeway, the gale having blown us half the distance to the Sandwich 
Islands. 

Inch by inch, as fast as the gale would permit, we made sail on the 
ship, for the wind still continued a-head, and we had many days' 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 219 

sailing to get back to the longitude we were in when the storm took 
us. For eight days more we beat to windward under a stiff top- 
gallant breeze, when the wind shifted and became variable. A light 
south-easter, to which we could carry a reefed topmast studding-sail, 
did wonders for our dead reckoning. 

Friday, December 4th, after a passage of twenty days, we arrived 
at the mouth of the bay of San Francisco, 



CHAPTER XXVI 
San Francisco — Monterey 

OUR place of destination had been Monterey, but as we were 
to the northward of it when the wind hauled a-head, we 
made a fair wind for San Francisco. This large bay, which 
lies in latitude 37° 58', was discovered by Sir Francis Drake, and 
by him represented to be (as indeed it is) a magnificent bay, con- 
taining several good harbors, great depth of water, and surrounded 
by a fertile and finely wooded country. About thirty miles from the 
mouth of the bay, and on the south-east side, is a high point, upon 
which the presidio is built. Behind this, is the harbor in which 
trading vessels anchor, and near it, the mission of San Francisco, and 
a newly begun settlement, mostly of Yankee Californians, called 
Yerba Buena, which promises well. Here, at anchor, and the only 
vessel, was a brig under Russian colors, from Asitka, in Russian 
America, which had come down to winter, and to take in a supply 
of tallow and grain, great quantities of which latter article are raised 
in the missions at the head of the bay. The second day after our 
arrival, we went on board the brig, it being Sunday, as a matter 
of curiosity; and there was enough there to gratify it. Though no 
larger than the Pilgrim, she had five or six officers, and a crew of 
between twenty and thirty; and such a stupid and greasy-looking 
set, I certainly never saw before. Although it was quite comfortable 
weather, and we had nothing on but straw hats, shirts, and duck 
trowsers, and were barefooted, they had, every man of them, double- 
soled boots, coming up to the knees, and well greased; thick woolen 
trowsers, frocks, waistcoats, pea-jackets, woolen caps, and everything 
in true Nova Zembla rig; and in the warmest days they made no 
change. The clothing of one of these men would weigh nearly as 
much as that of half our crew. They had brutish faces, looked like 
the antipodes of sailors, and apparently dealt in nothing but grease. 
They lived upon grease; eat it, drank it, slept in the midst of it, and 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 221 

their clothes were covered with it. To a Russian, grease is the great- 
est luxury. They looked with greedy eyes upon the tallow-bags as 
they were taken into the vessel, and, no doubt, would have eaten 
one up whole, had not the officer kept watch over it. The grease 
seemed actually coming through their pores, and out in their hair, 
and on their faces. It seems as if it were this saturation which makes 
them stand cold and rain so well. If they were to go into a warm 
climate, they would all die of the scurvy. 

The vessel was no better than the crew. Everything was in the 
oldest and most inconvenient fashion possible; running trusses on 
the yards, and large hawser cables, coiled all over the decks, and 
served and parcelled in all directions. The topmasts, top-gallant 
masts and studding-sail booms were nearly black for want of scrap- 
ing, and the decks would have turned the stomach of a man-of- 
war's-man. The galley was down in the forecastle; and there the 
crew lived, in the midst of the steam and grease of the cooking, in 
a place as hot as an oven, and as dirty as a pigsty. Five minutes in 
the forecastle was enough for us, and we were glad to get into the 
open air. We made some trade with them, buying Indian curiosities, 
of which they had a great number; such as bead- work, feathers of 
birds, fur moccasins, etc. I purchased a large robe, made of the skins 
of some animals, dried and sewed nicely together, and covered all 
over on the outside with thick downy feathers, taken from the 
breasts of various birds, and arranged with their different colors, so 
as to make a brilliant show. 

A few days after our arrival, the rainy season set in, and, for three 
weeks, it rained almost every hour, without cessation. This was bad 
for our trade, for the collecting of hides is managed differently in 
this port from what it is in any other on the coast. The mission of 
San Francisco near the anchorage, has no trade at all, but those of 
San Jose, Santa Clara, and others, situated on large creeks or rivers 
which run into the bay, and distant between fifteen and forty miles 
from the anchorage, do a greater business in hides than any in Cali- 
fornia. Large boats, manned by Indians, and capable of carrying 
nearly a thousand hides apiece, are attached to the missions, and 
sent down to the vessels with hides, to bring away goods in return. 
Some of the crews of the vessels are obliged to go and come in the 



222 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

boats, to look out for the hides and goods. These are favorite expe- 
ditions with the sailors, in fine weather; but now to be gone three or 
four days, in open boats, in constant rain, without any shelter, and 
with cold food, was hard service. Two of our men went up to Santa 
Clara in one of these boats, and were gone three days, during all 
which time they had a constant rain, and did not sleep a wink, but 
passed three long nights, walking fore and aft the boat, in the open 
air. When they got on board, they were completely exhausted, and 
took a watch below of twelve hours. All the hides, too, that came 
down in the boats, were soaked with water, and unfit to put below, 
so that we were obliged to trice them up to dry, in the intervals of 
sunshine or wind, upon all parts of the vessel. We got up tricing- 
lines from the jib-boom-end to each arm of the fore yard, and thence 
to the main and cross-jack yard-arms. Between the tops, too, and 
the mast-heads, from the fore to the main swifters, and thence to 
the mizen rigging, and in all directions athwartships, tricing-lines 
were run, and strung with hides. The head stays and guys, and the 
spritsail-yard, were lined, and, having still more, we got out the 
swinging booms, and strung them and the forward and after guys, 
with hides. The rail, fore and aft, the windlass, capstan, the sides 
of the ship, and every vacant place on deck, were covered with wet 
hides, on the least sign of an interval for drying. Our ship was noth- 
ing but a mass of hides, from the cat-harpins to the water's edge, 
and from the jib-boom-end to the taflrail. 

One cold, rainy evening, about eight o'clock, I received orders to 
get ready to start for San Jose at four the next morning, in one of 
these Indian boats, with four days' provisions. I got my oil-cloth 
clothes, south-wester, and thick boots all ready, and turned into my 
hammock early, determined to get some sleep in advance, as the boat 
was to be alongside before daybreak. I slept on till all hands were 
called in the morning; for, fortunately for me, the Indians, inten- 
tionally, or from mistaking their orders, had gone off alone in the 
night, and were far out of sight. Thus I escaped three or four days 
of very uncomfortable service. 

Four of our men, a few days afterwards, went up in one of the 
quarter-boats to Santa Clara, to carry the agent, and remained out 
all night in a drenching rain, in the small boat, where there was 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 223 

not room for them to turn round; the agent having gone up to the 
mission and left the men to their fate, making no provision for their 
accommodation, and not even sending them anything to eat. After 
this, they had to pull thirty miles, and w^hen they got on board, were 
so stiff that they could not come up the gangw^ay ladder. This filled 
up the measure of the agent's unpopularity, and never after this 
could he get anything done by any of the crew; and many a delay 
and vexation, and many a good ducking in the surf, did he get 
to pay up old scores, or "square the yards with the bloody quill- 
driver." 

Having collected nearly all the hides that were to be procured, we 
began our preparations for taking in a supply of wood and water, 
for both of which, San Francisco is the best place on the coast. A 
small island, situated about two leagues from the anchorage, called 
by us "Wood Island," and by the Spaniards "Isle de los Angelos," 
was covered with trees to the water's edge; and to this, two of our 
crew, who were Kennebec men, and could handle an axe like a 
plaything, were sent every morning to cut wood, with two boys to 
pile it up for them. In about a week, they had cut enough to last 
us a year, and the third mate, with myself and three others, were 
sent over in a large, schooner-rigged, open launch, which we had 
hired of the mission, to take in the wood, and bring it to the ship. 
We left the ship about noon, but, owing to a strong head wind, and 
a tide, which here runs four or five knots, did not get into the 
harbor, formed by two points of the island, where the boats lie, until 
sundown. No sooner had we come-to, than a strong south-easter, 
which had been threatening us all day, set in, with heavy rain and 
a chilly atmosphere. We were in rather a bad situation: an open 
boat, a heavy rain, and a long night; for in winter, in this latitude, 
it was dark nearly fifteen hours. Taking a small skiff which we 
had brought with us, we went ashore, but found no shelter, for 
everything was open to the rain, and collecting a little wood, which 
we found by lifting up the leaves and brush, and a few muscles, we 
put aboard again, and made the best preparations in our power for 
passing the night. We unbent the mainsail, and formed an awning 
with it over the after part of the boat, made a bed of wet logs of 
wood, and, with our jackets on, lay down, about six o'clock, to sleep. 



224 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

Finding the rain running down upon us, and our jackets getting 
wet through, and the rough, knotty-logs, rather indifferent couches, 
we turned out; and taking an iron pan which we brought with us, 
we wiped it out dry, put some stones around it, cut the wet bark 
from some sticks, and striking a light, made a small fire in the pan. 
Keeping some sticks near, to dry, and covering the whole over with 
a roof of boards, we kept up a small fire, by which we cooked our 
muscles, and eat them, rather for an occupation than from hunger. 
Still, it was not ten o'clock, and the night was long before us, when 
one of the party produced an old pack of Spanish cards from his 
monkey-jacket pocket, which we hailed as a great windfall; and 
keeping a dim, flickering light by our fagots, we played game after 
game, till one or two o'clock, when, becoming really tired, we went 
to our logs again, one sitting up at a time, in turn, to keep watch 
over the fire. Toward morning, the rain ceased, and the air became 
sensibly colder, so that we found sleep impossible, and sat up, watch- 
ing for daybreak. No sooner was it light than we went ashore, and 
began our preparations for loading our vessel. We were not mis- 
taken in the coldness of the weather, for a white frost was on the 
ground, a thing we had never seen before in California, and one 
or two little puddles of fresh water were skimmed over with a thin 
coat of ice. In this state of the weather and before sunrise, in the 
grey of the morning, we had to wade off, nearly up to our hips in 
water, to load the skiff with the wood by armsfuU. The third mate 
remained on board the launch, two more men staid in the skiff, to 
load and manage it, and all the water-work, as usual, fell upon the 
two youngest of us; and there we were, with frost on the ground, 
wading forward and back, from the beach to the boat, with armsf uU 
of wood, barefooted, and our trowsers rolled up. When the skiff went 
off with her load, we could only keep our feet from freezing by 
racing up and down the beach on the hard sand, as fast as we could 
go. We were all day at this work, and towards sundown, having 
loaded the vessel as deep as she would bear, we hove up our anchor, 
and made sail, beating out the bay. No sooner had we got into the 
large bay, than we found a strong tide setting us out to seaward, 
a thick fog which prevented our seeing the ship, and a breeze too 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 225 

light to set us against the tide; for we were as deep as a sand-barge. 
By the utmost exertions, we saved ourselves from being carried out 
to sea, and were glad to reach the leewardmost point of the island, 
where we came-to, and prepared to pass another night, more uncom- 
fortable than the first, for we were loaded up to the gunwale, and 
had only a choice among logs and sticks for a resting-place. The 
next morning, we made sail at slack water, with a fair wind, and got 
on board by eleven o'clock, when all hands were turned-to, to unload 
and stow away the wood, which took till night. 

Having now taken in all our wood, the next morning a water- 
party was ordered off with all the casks. From this we escaped, 
having had a pretty good siege with the wooding. The water-party 
were gone three days, during which time they narrowly escaped 
being carried out to sea, and passed one day on an island, where one 
of them shot a deer, great numbers of which overrun the islands and 
hills of San Francisco Bay. 

While not off, on these wood and water parties, or up the rivers 
to the missions, we had very easy times on board the ship. We were 
moored, stem and stern, within a cable's length of the shore, safe 
from south-easters, and with very little boating to do; and as it 
rained nearly all the time, awnings were put over the hatchways, 
and all hands sent down between decks, where we were at work, day 
after day, picking oakum, until we got enough to caulk the ship all 
over, and to last the whole voyage. Then we made a whole suit of 
gaskets for the voyage home, a pair of wheel-ropes from strips of 
green hide, great quantities of spun-yarn, and everything else that 
could be made between decks. It being now mid-winter and in high 
latitude, the nights were very long, so that we were not turned-to 
until seven in the morning, and were obliged to knock off at five in 
the evening, when we got supper; which gave us nearly three hours 
before eight bells, at which time the watch was set. 

As we had now been about a year on the coast, it was time to 
think of the voyage home; and knowing that the last two or three 
months of our stay would be very busy ones, and that we should 
never have so good an opportunity to work for ourselves as the 
present, we all employed our evenings in making clothes for the 



226 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

passage home, and more especially for Cape Horn. As soon as sup- 
per was over and the kids cleared away, and each one had taken his 
smoke, we seated ourselves on our chests round the lamp, which 
swung from a beam, and each one went to work in his own way, 
some making hats, others trowsers, others jackets, etc., etc.; and no 
one was idle. The boys who could not sew well enough to make 
their own clothes, laid up grass into sinnet for the men, who sewed 
for them in return. Several of us clubbed together and bought a 
large piece of twilled cotton, which we made into trowsers and 
jackets, and giving them several coats of linseed oil, laid them by 
for Cape Horn. I also sewed and covered a tarpaulin hat, thick and 
strong enough to sit down upon, and made myself a complete suit 
of flannel under-clothing, for bad weather. Those who had no 
south-wester caps, made them, and several of the crew made them- 
selves tarpaulin jackets and trowsers, lined on the inside with flannel. 
Industry was the order of the day, and every one did something for 
himself; for we knew that as the season advanced, and we went 
further south, we should have no evenings to work in. 

Friday, December 2ph. This day was Christmas; and as it rained 
all day long, and there were no hides to take in, and nothing especial 
to do, the captain gave us a holiday, (the first we had had since 
leaving Boston,) and plum duff for dinner. The Russian brig, fol- 
lowing the Old Style, had celebrated their Christmas eleven days 
before; when they had a grand blow-out and (as our men said) 
drank, in the forecastle, a barrel of gin, ate up a bag of tallow, and 
made a soup of the skin. 

Sunday, December 2yth. We had now finished all our business 
at this port, and it being Sunday, we unmoored ship and got under 
weigh, firing a salute to the Russian brig, and another to the Pre- 
sidio, which were both answered. The commandant of the Presidio, 
Don Gaudaloupe Villego, a young man, and the most popular, 
among the Americans and English, of any man in California, was 
on board when we got under weigh. He spoke English very well, 
and was suspected of being favorably inclined to foreigners. 

We sailed down this magnificent bay with a light wind, the tide, 
which was running out, carrying us at the rate of four or five knots. 
It was a fine day; the first of entire sunshine we had had for more 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 227 

than a month. We passed directly under the high diff on which the 
Presidio is built, and stood into the middle of the bay, from whence 
we could see small bays, making up into the interior, on every side; 
large and beautifully- wooded islands; and the mouths of several 
small rivers. If California ever becomes a prosperous country, this 
bay will be the centre of its prosperity. The abundance of wood and 
water, the extreme fertility of its shores, the excellence of its climate, 
which is as near to being perfect as any in the world, and its facilities 
for navigation, affording the best anchoring-grounds in the whole 
western coast of America, all fit it for a place of great importance; 
and, indeed, it has attracted much attention, for the settlement of 
"Yerba Buena," where we lay at anchor, made chiefly by Americans 
and English, and which bids fair to become the most important 
trading place on the coast, at this time began to supply traders, 
Russian ships, and whalers, with their stores of wheat and frijoles. 

The tide leaving us, we came to anchor near the mouth of the bay, 
under a high and beautifully sloping hill, upon which herds of 
hundreds and hundreds of red deer, and the stag, with his high 
branching antlers, were bounding about, looking at us for a mo- 
ment, and then starting off, affrighted at the noises which we made 
for the purpose of seeing the variety of their beautiful attitudes and 
motions. 

At midnight, the tide having turned, we hove up our anchor and 
stood out of the bay, with a fine starry heaven above us, — the first 
we had seen for weeks and weeks. Before the light northerly 
winds, which blow here with the regularity of trades, we worked 
slowly along, and made Point Afio Neuvo, the northerly point of 
the Bay of Monterey, on Monday afternoon. We spoke, going in, 
the brig Diana, of the Sandwich Islands, from the North-west Coast, 
last from Asitka. She was off the point at the same time with us, 
but did not get in to the anchoring-ground until an hour or two 
after us. It was ten o'clock on Tuesday morning when we came to 
anchor. The town looked just as it did when I saw it last, which 
was eleven months before, in the brig Pilgrim. The pretty lawn on 
which it stands, as green as sun and rain could make it; the pine 
wood on the south; the small river on the north side; the houses, 
with their white plastered sides and red-tiled roofs, dotted about 



228 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

on the green; the low, white presidio, with its soiled, tri-colored flag 
flying, and the discordant din of drums and trumpets for the noon 
parade; all brought up the scene we had witnessed here with so 
much pleasure nearly a year before, when coming from a long 
voyage, and our unprepossessing reception at Santa Barbara. It 
seemed almost like coming to a home. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

The Sunday Wash-up — On Shore — A Set-to — A Grandee — 
"Sail Ho!" — A Fandango 

THE only other vessel in port was the Russian government 
bark, from Asitka, mounting eight guns, (four of which 
we found to be Quakers,) and having on board the ex- 
governor, who was going in her to Mazatlan, and thence overland 
to Vera Cruz. He offered to take letters, and deliver them to the 
American consul at Vera Cruz, whence they could be easily for- 
warded to the United States. We accordingly made up a packet of 
letters, almost every one writing, and dating them "January ist, 
1836." The governor was true to his promise, and they all reached 
Boston before the middle of March; the shortest communication 
ever yet made across the country. 

The brig Pilgrim had been lying in Monterey through the latter 
part of November, according to orders, waiting for us. Day after 
day. Captain Faucon went up to the hill to look out for us, and at 
last, gave us up, thinking we must have gone down in the gale 
which we experienced off Point Conception, and which had blown 
with great fury over the whole coast, driving ashore several vessels 
in the snuggest ports. An English brig, which had put into San 
Francisco, lost both her anchors; the Rosa was driven upon a mud 
bank in San Diego; and the Pilgrim, with great difficulty, rode out 
the gale in Monterey, with three anchors a-head. She sailed early 
in December for San Diego and intermedios. 

As we were to be here over Sunday, and Monterey was the best 
place to go ashore on the whole coast, and we had had no liberty-day 
for nearly three months, every one was for going ashore. On Sunday 
morning, as soon as the decks were washed, and we had got break- 
fast, those who had obtained liberty began to clean themselves, as it 
is called, to go ashore. A bucket of fresh water apiece, a cake of soap, 
a large coarse towel, and we went to work scrubbing one another, on 

229 



230 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

the forecastle. Having gone through this, the next thing was to get 
into the head, — one on each side — with a bucket apiece, and duck 
one another, by drawing up water and heaving over each other, 
while we were stripped to a pair of trowsers. Then came the rigging- 
up. The usual outfit of pumps, white stockings, loose white duck 
trowsers, blue jackets, clean checked shirts, black kerchiefs, hats well 
varnished, with a fathom of black ribbon over the left eye, a silk 
handkerchief Hying from the outside jacket pocket, and foiu" or five 
dollars tied up in the back of the neckerchief, and we were "all 
right." One of the quarter-boats pulled us ashore, and we steamed 
up to the town. I tried to find the church, in order to see the wor- 
ship, but was told that there was no service, except a mass early in 
the morning; so we went about the town, visiting the Americans 
and English, and the natives whom we had known when we were 
here before. Toward noon we procured horses, and rode out to the 
Carmel mission, which is about a league from the town, where we 
got something in the way of a dinner — beef, eggs, frijoles, tortillas, 
and some middling wine — from the mayordomo, who, of course, 
refused to make any charge, as it was the Lord's gift, yet received 
our present, as a gratuity, vsdth a low bow, a touch of the hat, and 
"Dios se lo pague!" 

After this repast, we had a fine run, scouring the whole country on 
our fleet horses, and came into town soon after sundown. Here 
we found our companions who had refused to go to ride with us, 
thinking that a sailor has no more business with a horse than a 
fish has with a balloon. They were moored, stem and stern, in a 
grog-shop, making a great noise, with a crowd of Indians and 
hungry half-breeds about them, and with a fair prospect of being 
stripped and dirked, or left to pass the night in the calabozo. With 
a great deal of trouble, we managed to get them down to the boats, 
though not without many angry looks and interferences from the 
Spaniards, who had marked them out for their prey. The Diana's 
crew, — a set of worthless outcasts, who had been picked up at the 
islands from the refuse of whale-ships, — were all as drunk as beasts, 
and had a set-to, on the beach, with their captain, who was in no 
better state than themselves. They swore they would not go aboard, 
and went back to the town, were stripped and beaten, and lodged in 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 23I 

the calabozo, until the next day, when the captain bought them out. 
Our forecastle, as usual after a liberty-day, was a scene of tumult 
all night long, from the drunken ones. They had just got to sleep 
toward morning, when they were turned up with the rest, and kept 
at work all day in the water, carrying hides, their heads aching so 
that they could hardly stand. This is sailor's pleasure. 

Nothing worthy of remark happened while we were here, except 
a little boxing-match on board our own ship, which gave us some- 
thing to talk about. A broad-backed, big-headed Cape Cod boy, 
about sixteen years old, had been playing the bully, for the whole 
voyage, over a slender, delicate-looking boy, from one of the Boston 
schools, and over whom he had much the advantage, in strength, 
age, and experience in the ship's duty, for this was the first time 
the Boston boy had been on salt water. The latter, however, had 
"picked up his crumbs," was learning his duty, and getting strength 
and confidence daily; and began to assert his rights against his of>- 
pressor. Still, the other was his master, and, by his superior strength, 
always tackled with him and threw him down. One afternoon, be- 
fore we were turned-to, these boys got into a violent squabble in the 
between-decks, when George (the Boston boy) said he would fight 
Nat, if he could have fair play. The chief mate heard the noise, dove 
down the hatchway, hauled them both up on deck, and told them 
to shake hands and have no more trouble for the voyage, or else they 
should fight till one gave in for beaten. Finding neither willing to 
make an offer for reconciliation, he called all hands up, (for the cap- 
tain was ashore, and he could do as he chose aboard,) ranged the 
crew in the waist, marked a line on the deck, brought the two boys 
up to it, making them "toe the mark;" then made the bight of a 
rope fast to a belaying pin, and stretched it across the deck, bringing 
it just above their waists. "No striking below the rope!" And there 
they stood, one on each side of it, face to face, and went at it like 
two game-cocks. The Cape Cod boy, Nat, put in his double-fisters, 
starting the blood, and bringing the black and blue spots all over the 
face and arms of the other, whom we expected to see give in every 
moment: but the more he was hurt, the better he fought. Time 
after time he was knocked nearly down, but up he came again and 
faced the mark, as bold as a lion, again to take the heavy blow% 



232 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

which sounded so as to make one's heart turn with pity for him. 
At length he came up to the mark for the last time, his shirt torn from 
his body, his face covered with blood and bruises, and his eyes flash- 
ing fire, and swore he would stand there until one or the other was 
killed, and set-to like a young fury. "Hurrah in the bow!" said the 
men, cheering him on. "Well crowed!" "Never say die, while 
there's a shot in the locker!" Nat tried to close with him, knowing 
his advantage, but the mate stopped that, saying there should be 
fair play, and no fingering. Nat then came up to the mark, but 
looked white about the mouth, and his blows were not given with 
half the spirit of his first. He was evidently cowed. He had always 
been his master, and had nothing to gain, and everything to lose; 
while the other fought for honor and freedom, under a sense of 
wrong. It would not do. It was soon over. Nat gave in; not so 
much beaten, as cowed and mortified; and never afterwards tried 
to act the bully on board. We took George forward, washed him in 
the deck-tub, complimented his pluck, and from this time he became 
somebody on board, having fought himself into notice. Mr. Brown's 
plan had a good effect, for there was no more quarrelling among 
the boys for the rest of the voyage. 

Wednesday, January 6th. Set sail from Monterey, with a number 
of Spaniards as passengers, and shaped our course for Santa Bar- 
bara. The Diana went out of the bay in company with us, but parted 
from us off Point Pinos, being bound to the Sandwich Islands. We 
had a smacking breeze for several hours, and went along at a great 
rate, until night, when it died away, as usual, and the land-breeze 
set in, which brought us upon a taught bowline. Among our pas- 
sengers was a young man who was the best representation of a 
decayed gentleman I had ever seen. He reminded me much of some 
of the characters in Gil Bias. He was of the aristocracy of the coun- 
try, his family being of pure Spanish blood, and once of great 
importance in Mexico. His father had been governor of the province, 
and having amassed a large property, settled at San Diego, where 
he built a large house with a court-yard in front, kept a great retinue 
of Indians, and set up for the grandee of that part of the country. 
His son was sent to Mexico, where he received the best education, 
and went into the first society of the capital. Misfortune, extrava- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 233 

gance, and the want of funds, or any manner of getting interest on 
money, soon eat the estate up, and Don Juan Bandini returned 
from Mexico accomplished, poor, and proud, and without any office 
or occupation, to lead the life of most young men of the better 
families — dissolute and extravagant when the means are at hand; 
ambitious at heart, and impotent in act; often pinched for bread; 
keeping up an appearance of style, when their poverty is known 
to each half-naked Indian boy in the street, and they stand in dread 
of every small trader and shopkeeper in the place. He had a slight 
and elegant figure, moved gracefully, danced and waltzed beauti- 
fully, spoke the best of Castilian, with a pleasant and refined voice 
and accent, and had, throughout, the bearing of a man of high 
birth and figure. Yet here he was, with his passage given him, 
(as I afterwards learned,) for he had not the means of paying for it, 
and living upon the charity of our agent. He was polite to every 
one, spoke to the sailors, and gave four reals — I dare say the last he 
had in his pocket — to the steward, who waited upon him. I could not 
but feel a pity for him, especially when I saw him by the side of 
his fellow-passenger and townsman, a fat, coarse, vulgar, pretending 
fellow of a Yankee trader, who had made money in San Diego, and 
was eating out the very vitals of the Bandinis, fattening upon their 
extravagance, grinding them in their poverty; having mortgages on 
their lands, forestalling their cattle, and already making an inroad 
upon their jewels, which were their last hope. 

Don Juan had with him a retainer, who was as much like many 
of the characters in Gil Bias as his master. He called himself a 
private secretary, though there was no writing for him to do, and 
he lived in the steerage with the carpenter and sailmaker. He was 
certainly a character; could read and write extremely well; spoke 
good Spanish; had been all over Spanish America, and lived in every 
possible situation, and served in every conceivable capacity, though 
generally in that of confidential servant to some man of figure. I 
cultivated this man's acquaintance, and during the five weeks that 
he was with us, — for he remained on board until we arrived at San 
Diego, — I gained a greater knowledge of the state of political parties 
in Mexico, and the habits and affairs of the different classes of 
society, than I could have learned from almost any one else. He 



234 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

took great pains in correcting my Spanish, and supplying me with 
colloquial phrases, and common terms and exclamations in speaking. 
He lent me a file of late newspapers from the city of Mexico, which 
were full of triumphal receptions of Santa Ana, who had just re- 
turned from Tampico after a victory, and with the preparations 
for his expedition against the Texans. "Viva Santa Ana!" was the 
by-word everywhere, and it had even reached California, though 
there were still many here, among whom was Don Juan Bandini, 
who were opposed to his government, and intriguing to bring in 
Bustamente. Santa Ana, they said, was for breaking down the mis- 
sions; or, as they termed it — "Santa Ana no quiere religion." Yet I 
had no doubt that theofSce of administrador of San Diego would 
reconcile Don Juan to any dynasty, and any state of the church. In 
these papers, too, I found scraps of American and English news; but 
which were so unconnected, and I was so ignorant of everything 
preceding them for eighteen months past, that they only awakened 
a curiosity which they could not satisfy. One article spoke of 
Taney as Justicia Mayor de los Estados Unidos, (what had become 
of Marshall? was he dead, or banished?) and another made known, 
by news received from Vera Cruz, that "El Vizconde Melbourne" 
had returned to the office of "primer ministro," in place of Sir 
Roberto Peel. (Sir Robert Peel had been minister, then ? and where 
were Earl Grey and the Duke of Wellington?) Here were the out- 
lines of a grand parliamentary overturn, the filling up of which I 
could imagine at my leisure. 

The second morning after leaving Monterey, we were off Point 
Conception. It was a bright, sunny day, and the wind, though 
strong, was fair; and everything was in striking contrast with our 
experience in the same place two months before, when we were 
drifting off from a northwester under a fore and main spencer. 
"Sail ho!" cried a man who was rigging out a top-gallant studding- 
sail boom. — ^"Where away?" — "Weather beam, sir!" and in a fewi 
minutes a full-rigged brig was seen standing out from under Point 
Conception. The studding-sail halyards were let go, and the yards 
boom-ended, the after yards braced aback, and we waited her coming 
down. She rounded to, backed her main topsail, and showed her 
decks full of men, four guns on a side, hammock nettings, and 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 235 

everything man-of-war fashion, except that there was no boatswain's 
whistle, and no uniforms on the quarter-deck. A short, square-built 
man, in a rough grey jacket, with a speaking-trumpet in hand, 
stood in the weather hammock nettings. "Ship ahoy!" — ^"Hallo!" — 
"What ship is that, pray?"— "Alert."— "Where are you from, pray?" 
etc., etc. She proved to be the brig Convoy, from the Sandwich 
Islands, engaged in otter hunting, among the islands which Ue along 
the coast. Her armament was from her being an illegal trader. The 
otter are very numerous among these islands, and being of great 
value, the government require a heavy sum for a license to hunt 
them, and lay a high duty upon every one shot or carried out of the 
country. This vessel had no license, and paid no duty, besides being 
engaged in smuggling goods on board other vessels trading on the 
coast, and belonging to the same owners in Oahu. Our captain told 
him to look out for the Mexicans, but he said they had not an 
armed vessel of his size in the whole Pacific. This was without 
doubt the same vessel that showed herself off Santa Barbara a few 
months before. These vessels frequently remain on the coast for 
years, without making port, except at the islands for wood and 
water, and an occasional visit to Oahu for a new outfit. 

Sunday, January loth. Arrived at Santa Barbara, and on the fol- 
lowing Wednesday, slipped our cable and went to sea, on account 
of a south-easter. Returned to our anchorage the next day. We were 
the only vessel in the port. The Pilgrim had passed through the 
Canal and hove-to off the town, nearly six weeks before, on her 
passage down from Monterey, and was now at the leeward. She 
heard here of our safe arrival at San Francisco. 

Great preparations were making on shore for the marriage of our 

agent, who was to marry Donna Anneta De G De N y 

C , youngest daughter of Don Antonio N , the grandee of 

the place, and the head of the first family in California. Our steward 
was ashore three days, making pastry and cake, and some of the 
best of our stores were sent off with him. On the day appointed for 
the wedding, we took the captain ashore in the gig, and had orders 
to come for him at night, with leave to go up to the house and 
see the fandango. Returning on board, we found preparations mak- 
ing for a salute. Our guns were loaded and run out, men appointed 



230 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

to each, cartridges served out, matches Hghted, and all the flags 
ready to be run up. I took my place at the starboard after gun, 
and we all waited for the signal from on shore. At ten o'clock the 
bride went up with her sister to the confessional, dressed in deep 
black. Nearly an hour intervened, when the great doors of the 
mission church opened, the bells rang out a loud, discordant peal, 
the private signal for us was run up by the captain ashore, the 
bride, dressed in complete white, came out of the church with the 
bridegroom, followed by a long procession. Just as she stepped 
from the church door, a small white cloud issued from the bows 
of our ship, which was full in sight, the loud report echoed among 
the surrounding hills and over the bay, and instantly the ship was 
dressed in flags and pennants from stem to stern. Twenty-three 
guns followed in regular succession, with an interval of fifteen sec- 
onds between each when the cloud cleared away, and the ship lay 
dressed in her colors, all day. At sun-down, another salute of 
the same number of guns was fired, and all the flags run down. 
This we thought was pretty well — a gun every fifteen seconds — 
for a merchantman with only four guns and a dozen or twenty 
men. 

After supper, the gig's crew were called, and we rowed ashore, 
dressed in our uniform, beached the boat, and went up to the fan- 
dango. The bride's father's house was the principal one in the 
place, with a large court in front, upon which a tent was built, 
capable of containing several hundred people. As we drew near, 
we heard the accustomed sound of violins and guitars, and saw a 
great motion of the people within. Going in, we found nearly all 
the people of the town — men, women, and children — collected and 
crowded together, leaving barely room for the dancers; for on these 
occasions no invitations are given, but every one is expected to come, 
though there is always a private entertainment within the house 
for particular friends. The old women sat down in rows, clapping 
their hands to the music, and applauding the young ones. The 
music was lively, and among the tunes, we recognized several of 
our popular airs, which we, without doubt, have taken from the 
Spanish. In the dancing, I was much disappointed. The women 
stood upright, with their hands down by their sides, their eyes fixed 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST lyj 

upon the ground before them, and sUded about without any per- 
ceptible means of motion; for their feet were invisible, the hem of 
their dresses forming a perfect circle about them, reaching to the 
ground. They looked as grave as though they were going through 
some religious ceremony, their faces as little excited as their limbs; 
and on the whole, instead of the spirited, fascinating Spanish dances 
which I had expected, I found the Californian fandango, on the 
part of the women at least, a lifeless affair. The men did better. 
They danced with grace and spirit, moving in circles round their 
nearly stationary partners, and showing their figures to great 
advantage. 

A great deal was said about our friend Don Juan Bandini, and 
when he did appear, which was toward the close of the evening, he 
certainly gave us the most graceful dancing that I had ever seen. 
He was dressed in white pantaloons neatly made, a short jacket of 
dark silk, gaily figured, white stockings and thin morocco slippers 
upon his very small feet. His slight and graceful figure was well 
calculated for dancing, and he moved about with the grace and 
daintiness of a young fawn. An occasional touch of the toe to the 
ground, seemed all that was necessary to give him a long interval 
of motion in the air. At the same time he was not fantastic or 
flourishing, but appeared to be rather repressing a strong tendency 
to motion. He was loudly applauded, and danced frequently toward 
the close of the evening. After the supper, the waltzing began, 
which was confined to a very few of the "gente de razon," and was 
considered a high accomplishment, and a mark of aristocracy. Here, 
too, Don Juan figured greatly, waltzing with the sister of the bride, 
(Donna Angustia, a handsome woman and a general favorite,) in 
a variety of beautiful, but, to me, offensive figures, which lasted as 
much as half an hour, no one else taking the floor. They were re- 
peatedly and loudly applauded, the old men and women jumping 
out of their seats in admiration, and the young people waving their 
hats and handkerchiefs. Indeed among people of the character of 
these Mexicans, the waltz seemed to me to have found its right 
place. The great amusement of the evening, — which I suppose was 
owing to its being carnival — was the breaking of eggs filled with 
cologne, or other essences, upon the heads of the company. One end 



238 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

of the egg is broken and the inside taken out, then it is partly filled 
with cologne, and the whole sealed up. The women bring a great 
number of these secretly about them, and the amusement is to 
break one upon the head of a gentleman when his back is turned. 
He is bound in gallantry to find out the lady and return the com- 
pliment, though it must not be done if the person sees you. A tall, 
stately Don, with immense grey whiskers, and a look of great im- 
portance, was standing before me, when I felt a light hand on my 
shoulder, and turning round, saw Donna Angustia, (whom we all 
knew, as she had been up to Monterey, and down again, in the 
Alert,) with her finger upon her lip, motioning me gently aside. I 
stepped back a little, when she went up behind the Don, and with 
one hand knocked off his huge sombrero, and at the same instant, 
with the other, broke the egg upon his head, and springing behind 
me, was out of sight in a moment. The Don turned slowly round, 
the cologne, running down his face, and over his clothes and a 
loud laugh breaking out from every quarter. He looked round in 
vain, for some time, until the direction of so many laughing eyes 
showed him the fair offender. She was his niece, and a great 
favorite with him, so old Don Domingo had to join in the laugh. 
A great many such tricks were played, and many a war of sharp 
manceuvering was carried on between couples of the younger people, 
and at every successful exploit a general laugh was raised. 

Another singular custom I was for some time at a loss about. A 
pretty young girl was dancing, named, after what would appear to 
us the sacrilegious custom of the country — Espiritu Santo, when a 
young man went behind her and placed his hat directly upon her 
head, letting it fall down over her eyes, and sprang back among the 
crowd. She danced for some time with the hat on, when she threw 
it off, which called forth a general shout; and the young man was 
obliged to go out upon the floor and pick it up. Some of the ladies, 
upon whose heads hats had been placed, threw them off at once, 
and a few kept them on throughout the dance, and took them off 
at the end, and held them out in their hands, when the owner 
stepped out, bowed, and took it from them. I soon began to suspect 
the meaning of the thing, and was afterwards told that it was a com- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 239 

pliment, and an offer to becontie the lady's gallant for the rest of the 
evening, and to wait upon her home. If the hat was thrown off, 
the offer was refused, and the gentleman was obliged to pick up 
his hat amid a general laugh. Much amusement was caused some- 
times by gentlemen putting hats on the ladies' heads, without per- 
mitting them to see whom it was done by. This obliged them to 
throw them off, or keep them on at a venture, and when they came 
to discover the owner, the laugh was often turned upon them. 

The captain sent for us about ten o'clock, and we went aboard 
in high spirits, having enjoyed the new scene much, and were of 
great importance among the crew, from having so much to tell, and 
from the prospect of going every night until it was over; for these 
fandangos generally last three days. The next day, two of us were 
sent up to the town, and took care to come back by way of Capitan 
Noriego's and take a look into the booth. The musicians were still 
there, upon their platform, scraping and twanging away, and a few 
people, apparently of the lower classes, were dancing. The dancing 
is kept up, at intervals, throughout the day, but the crowd, the 
spirit, and the elite, come in at night. The next night, which was 
the last, we went ashore in the same manner, until we got almost 
tired of the monotonous twang of the instruments, the drawling 
sounds which the women kept up, as an accompaniment, and the 
slapping of the hands in time with the music, in place of castanets. 
We found ourselves as great objects of attention as any persons or 
anything at the place. Our sailor dresses — and we took great pains to 
have them neat and shipshape — were much admired, and we were in- 
vited, from every quarter, to give them an American sailor's dance; 
but after the ridiculous figure some of our countrymen cut, in dancing 
after the Spaniards, we thought it best to leave it to their imagina- 
tions. Our agent, with a tight, black, swallow-tailed coat, just im- 
ported from Boston, a high stiff cravat, looking as if he had been 
pinned and skewered, with only his feet and hands left free, took the 
floor just after Bandini; and we thought they had had enough of 
Yankee grace. 

The last night they kept it up in great style, and were getting into 
a high-go, when the captain called us off to go aboard, for, it being 



240 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

south-easter season, he was afraid to remain on shore long; and it 
was well he did not, for that very night, we slipped our cables, as 
a crowner to our fun ashore, and stood off before a south-easter, 
which lasted twelve hours, and returned to our anchorage the next 
day. 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

An Old Friend — A Victim — California Rangers — ^News from 
Home — Last Looks 

MONDAY, Feb. ist. After having been in port twenty-one 
days, we sailed for San Pedro, where we arrived on the 
following day, having gone "all fluking," with the weather 
clew of the mainsail hauled up, the yards braced in a litde, and the 
lower studding-sails just drawing; the wind hardly shifting a point 
during the passage. Here we found the Ayacucho and the Pilgrim, 
which last we had not seen since the nth of September, — nearly five 
months; and I really felt something like an affection for the old 
brig which had been my first home, and in which I had spent nearly 
a year, and got the first rough and tuinble of a sea life. She, too, was 
associated, in my mind with Boston, the wharf from which we 
sailed, anchorage in the stream, leave-taking, and all such matters, 
which were now to me like small links connecting me with another 
world, which I had once been in, and which, please God, I might 
yet see again. I went on board the first night, after supper; found 
the old cook in the galley, playing upon the fife which I had given 
him, as a parting present; had a hearty shake of the hand from 
him; and dove down into the forecastle, where were my old ship- 
mates, the same as ever, glad to see me; for they had nearly given 
us up as lost, especially when they did not find us in Santa Barbara. 
They had been at San Diego last, had been lying at San Pedro 
nearly a month, and had received three thousand hides from the 
pueblo. These were taken from her the next day, which filled us 
up, and we both got under weigh on the 4th, she bound up to 
San Francisco again, and we to San Diego, where we arrived on 
the 6th. 

We were always glad to see San Diego; it being the depot, and a 
snug little place, and seeming quite like home, especially to me, 
who had spent a summer there. There was no vessel in port, the 

a4i 



242 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

Rosa having sailed for Valparaiso and Cadiz, and the Catalina for 
Callao, nearly a month before. We discharged our hides, and in 
four days were ready to sail again for the windward; and, to our 
great joy — for the last time! Over thirty thousand hides had been 
already collected, cured, and stowed away in the house, which, 
together with what we should collect, and the Pilgrim would bring 
down from San Francisco, would make out her cargo. The thought 
that we were actually going up for the last time, and that the next 
time we went round San Diego point it would be "homeward 
bound," brought things so near a close, that we felt as though we 
were just there, though it must still be the greater part of a year 
before we could see Boston. 

I spent one evening, as had been my custom, at the oven with 
the Sandwich Islanders; but it was far from being the usual noisy, 
laughing time. It has been said, that the greatest curse to each 
of the South Sea islands, was the first man who discovered it; and 
every one who knows anything of the history of our commerce 
in those parts, knows how much truth there is in this; and that the 
white men, with their vices, have brought in diseases before un- 
known to the islanders, and which are now sweeping off the native 
population of the Sandwich Islands, at the rate of one fortieth of the 
entire population annually. They seem to be a doomed people. The 
curse of a people calling themselves Christian, seems to follow them 
everywhere; and even here, in this obscure place, lay two young 
islanders, whom I had left strong, active young men, in the vigor of 
health, wasting away under a disease, which they would never have 
known but for their intercourse with Christianized Mexico and 
people from Christian America. One of them was not so ill; and was 
moving about, smoking his pipe, and talking, and trying to keep up 
his spirits; but the other, who was my friend, and Aikane — Hope, 
was the most dreadful object I had ever seen in my life: his eyes 
sunken and dead, his cheeks fallen in against his teeth, his hands 
looking like claws; a dreadful cough, which seemed to rack his whole 
shattered system, a hollow whispering voice, and an entire inability to 
move himself. There he lay, upon a mat, on the ground, which was 
the only floor of the oven, with no medicine, no comforts, and no one 
to care for, or help him, but a few Kanakas, who were willing enough. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 243 

but could do nothing. The sight o£ him made me sick, and faint. 
Poor fellow! During the four months that I lived upon the beach, we 
were continually together, both in work, and in our excursions in 
the woods, and upon the water. I really felt a strong affection for 
him, and preferred him to any of my own countrymen there; and 
I believe there was nothing which he would not have done for me. 
When I came into the oven he looked at me, held out his hand, and 
said, in a low voice, but with a delightful smile, "Aloha, Ai\anel 
Aloha nut!" I comforted him as well as I could, and promised to 
ask the captain to help him from the medicine-chest, and told him 
I had no doubt the captain would do what he could for him, as he 
had worked in our employ for several years, both on shore and 
aboard our vessels on the coast. I went aboard and turned into my 
hammock, but I could not sleep. 

Thinking, from my education, that I must have some knowledge 
of medicine, the Kanakas had insisted upon my examining him 
carefully; and it was not a sight to be forgotten. One of our crew, 
an old man-of-war's man, of twenty years' standing, who had seen 
sin and suffering in every shape, and whom I afterwards took to 
see Hope, said it was dreadfully worse than anything he had ever 
seen, or even dreamed of. He was horror-struck, as his countenance 
showed; yet he had been among the worst cases in our naval hos- 
pitals. I could not get the thought of the poor fellow out of my 
head all night; his horrible suffering, and his apparently inevitable, 
horrible end. 

The next day I told the captain of Hope's state, and asked him 
if he would be so kind as to go and see him. 

"What? a d d Kanaka?" 

"Yes, sir," said I; "but he has worked four years for our vessels, 
and has been in the employ of our owners, both on shore and 
aboard." 

"Oh! he be d d!" said the captain, and walked off. 

This same man died afterwards of a fever on the deadly coast 
of Sumatra; and God grant he had better care taken of him in his 
sufferings, than he ever gave to any one else! Finding nothing was 
to be got from the captain, I consulted an old shipmate, who had 
much experience in these matters, and got from him a recipe, which 



244 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

he always kept by him. With this I went to the mate, and told him 
the case. Mr. Brown had been entrusted with the general care of 
the medicine-chest, and although a driving fellow, and a taught 
hand in a watch, he had good feelings, and was always inclined to 
be kind to the sick. He said that Hope was not strictly one of the 
crew, but as he was in our employ when taken sick, he should 
have the medicines; and he got them and gave them to me, with 
leave to go ashore at night. Nothing could exceed the delight 
of the Kanakas, when I came bringing the medicines. All their 
terms of affection and gratitude were spent upon me, and in a sense 
wasted, (for I could not understand half of them,) yet they made 
all known by their manner. Poor Hope was so much revived at the 
bare thought of anything's being done for him, that he was already 
stronger and better. I knew he must die as he was, and he could 
but die under the medicines, and any chance was worth running. 
An oven, exposed to every wind and change of weather, is no place 
to take calomel; but nothing else would do, and strong remedies 
must be used, or he was gone. The applications, internal and ex- 
ternal, were powerful, and I gave him strict directions to keep 
warm and sheltered, telling him it was his only chance for life. 
Twice, after this, I visited him, having only time to run up, while 
waiting in the boat. He promised to take his medicines regularly 
until we returned, and insisted upon it that he was doing better. 

We got under weigh on the loth, bound up to San Pedro, and 
had three days of calm and head winds, making but little progress. 
On the fourth, we took a stiff south-easter, which obliged us to reef 
our topsails. While on the yard, we saw a sail on the weather bow, 
and in about half an hour, passed the Ayacucho, under double- 
reefed topsails, beating down to San Diego. Arrived at San Pedro 
on the fourth day, and came-to in the old place, a league from 
shore, with no other vessel in port, and the prospect of three weeks, 
or more, of dull life, rolling goods up a slippery hill, carrying 
hides on our heads over sharp stones, and, perhaps, slipping for a 
south-easter. 

There was but one man in the only house here, and him I shall 
always remember as a good specimen of a California ranger. He 
had been a tailor in Philadelphia, and getting intemperate and in 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 245 

debt, he joined a trapping party and went to the Columbia river, 
and thence down to Monterey, where he spent everything, left his 
party, and came to the Pueblo de los Angelos, to work at his trade. 
Here he went dead to leeward among the pulperias, gambling 
rooms, etc., and came down to San Pedro, to be moral by being out 
of temptation. He had been in the house several weeks, working 
hard at his trade, upon orders which he had brought with him, and 
talked much of his resolution, and opened his heart to us about his 
past life. After we had been here some time, he started off one 
morning, in fine spirits, well dressed, to carry the clothes which he 
had been making to the pueblo, and saying he would bring back his 
money and some fresh orders the next day. The next day came, 
and a week passed, and nearly a fortnight, when, one day, going 
ashore, we saw a tall man, who looked like our friend the tailor, 
getting out of the back of an Indian's cart, which had just come 
down from the pueblo. He stood for the house, but we bore up after 
him; when finding that we were overhauling him, he hove-to and 
spoke us. Such a sight I never saw before. Barefooted, with an 
old pair of trowsers tied round his waist by a piece of green hide, a 
soiled cotton shirt, and a torn Indian hat; "cleaned out," to the last 
real, and completely "used up." He confessed the whole matter; 
acknowledged that he was on his back; and now he had a prospect 
of a fit of the horrors for a week, and of being worse than useless 
for months. This is a specimen of the life of half of the Americans 
and English who are adrift over the whole of California. One of the 
same stamp was Russell, who was master of the hide-house at San 
Diego, while I was there, and afterwards turned away for his mis- 
conduct. He spent his own money and nearly all the stores among 
the half-bloods upon the beach, and being turned away, went up to 
the Presidio, where he lived the life of a desperate "loafer," until 
some rascally deed sent him off "between two days," with men on 
horseback, dogs, and Indians in full cry after him, among the hills. 
One night, he burst into our room at the hide-house, breathless, pale 
as a ghost, covered with mud, and torn by thorns and briers, nearly 
naked, and begged for a crust of bread, saying he had neither eaten 
nor slept for three days. Here was the great Mr. Russell, who a 
month before was "Don Tomas," "Capitan de la playa," "Maestro 



246 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

de la casa," etc., etc., begging food and shelter of Kanakas and 
sailors. He staid with us till he gave himself up, and was dragged 
off to the calabozo. 

Another, and a more amusing specimen, was one whom we saw 
at San Francisco. He had been a lad on board the ship California, 
in one of her first voyages, and ran away and commenced Ran- 
chero, gambling, stealing horses, etc. He worked along up to San 
Francisco, and was living on a rancho near there, while we were in 
port. One morning, when we went ashore in the boat, we found 
him at the landing-place, dressed in California style, — a wide hat, 
faded velveteen trowsers, and a blanket cloak thrown over his shoul- 
ders — and wishing to go off in the boat, saying he was going to 
pasear with our captain a little. We had many doubts of the recep- 
tion he would meet with; but he seemed to think himself company 
for any one. We took him aboard, landed him at the gangway, and 
went about our work, keeping an eye upon the quarter-deck, where 
the captain was walking. The lad went up to him with the most 
complete assurance, and raising his hat, wished him a good after- 
noon. Captain T turned round, looked at him from head to 

foot, and saying coolly, "Hallo! who the h are you?" kept on 

his walk. This was a rebuff not to be mistaken, and the joke passed 
about among the crew by winks and signs, at different parts of the 
ship. Finding himself disappointed at headquarters, he edged along 
forward to the mate, who was overseeing some work on the fore- 
castle, and tried to begin a yarn; but it would not do. The mate 
had seen the reception he had met with aft, and would have no 
cast-off company. The second mate was aloft, and the third mate 
and myself were painting the quarter-boat, which hung by the 
davits, so he betook himself to us; but we looked at one another, 
and the officer was too busy to say a word. From us, he went to one 
and another of the crew, but the joke had got before him, and he 
found everybody busy and silent. Looking over the rail a few mo- 
ments afterward, we saw him at the galley-door talking to the cook. 
This was a great comedown, from the highest seat in the syn- 
agogue to a seat in the galley with the black cook. At night, 
too, when supper was called, he stood in the waist for some 
time, hoping to be asked down with the officers, but they went 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 247 

below, one after another, and left him. His next chance was 
with the carpenter and sail-maker, and he lounged round the after 
hatchway until the last had gone down. We had now had fun 
enough out of him, and taking pity on him, offered him a pot of 
tea, and a cut at the kid, with the rest, in the forecastle. He was 
hungry, and it was growing dark, and he began to see that there 
was no use in playing the caballero any longer, and came down 
into the forecastle, put into the "grub" in sailor's style, threw off 
all his airs, and enjoyed the joke as much as any one; for a man must 
take a joke among sailors. He gave us the whole account of his 
adventures in the country, — roguery and all — and was very enter- 
taining. He was a smart, unprincipled fellow, was at the bot- 
tom of most of the rascally doings of the country, and gave us 
a great deal of interesting information in the ways of the world 
we were in. 

Saturday, Feb. i^th. Were called up at midnight to slip for a violent 
north-easter, for this rascally hole of San Pedro is unsafe in every 
wind but a south-wester, which is seldom known to blow more than 
once in a half century. We went off with a flowing sheet, and hove- 
to under the lee of Catalina island, where we lay three days, and 
then returned to our anchorage. 

Tuesday, Feb. 2^d. This afternoon, a signal was made from the 
shore, and we went of? in the gig, and found the agent's clerk, who 
had been up to the pueblo, waiting at the landing-place, with a 
package under his arm, covered with brown paper, and tied care- 
fully with twine. No sooner had we shoved off than he told us 
there was good news from Santa Barbara. "What's that.?" said one 
of the crew; "has the bloody agent slipped off the hooks.? Has the 
old bundle of bones got him at last.?" — "No; better than that. The 
California has arrived." Letters, papers, news, and, perhaps, — friends, 
on board! Our hearts were all up in our mouths, and we pulled 
away like good fellows; for the precious packet could not be opened 
except by the captain. As we pulled under the stern, the clerk held 
up the package, and called out to the mate, who was leaning over 
the taffrail, that the California had arrived. 

"Hurrah!" said the mate, so as to be heard fore and aft; "CaU- 
fornia come, and news from Boston!" 



248 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

Instantly there was a confusion on board which no one could 
account for who has not been in the same situation. All discipline 
seemed for a moment relaxed. 

"What's that, Mr. Brown?" said the cook, putting his head out of 
the galley — "California come?" 

"Aye, aye! you angel of darkness, and there's a letter for you 
from Bull1{nop 'treet, number two-two-five — green door and brass 
knocker!" 

The packet was sent down into the cabin, and every one waited 
to hear of the result. As nothing came up, the officers began to feel 
that they were acting rather a child's part, and turned the crew to 
again and the same strict discipline was restored, which prohibits 
speech between man and man, while at work on deck; so that, when 
the steward came forward with letters for the crew, each man 
took his letters, carried them below to his chest, and came up again 
immediately; and not a letter was read until we had cleared up 
decks for the night. 

An overstrained sense of manliness is the characteristic of seafar- 
ing men, or, rather, of life on board ship. This often gives an ap- 
pearance of want of feeling, and even of cruelty. From this, if a 
man comes within an ace of breaking his necli and escapes, it is 
made a joke of; and no notice must be taken of a bruise or cut; and 
any expression of pity, or any show of attention, would look sisterly, 
and unbecoming a man who has to face the rough and tumble of 
such a life. From this, too, the sick are neglected at sea, and what- 
ever sailors may be ashore, a sick man finds little sympathy or 
attention, forward or aft. A man, too, can have nothing peculiar 
or sacred on board ship; for all the nicer feelings they take pride 
in disregarding, both in themselves and others. A thin-skinned 
man could not live an hour on ship-board. One would be torn 
raw unless he had the hide of an ox. A moment of natural feeling 
for home and friends, and then the frigid routine of sea-life re- 
turned. Jokes were made upon those who showed any interest in 
the expected news, and everything near and dear was made common 
stock for rude jokes and unfeeling coarseness, to which no exception 
could be taken by any one. 

Supper, too, must be eaten before the letters were read; and when, 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 249 

at last, they were brought out, they all got round any one who had 
a letter, and expected to have it read aloud, and have it all in 
common. If any one went by himself to read, it was — "Fair play, 
there; and no skulking!" I took mine and went into the sailmaker's 
berth, where I could read it without interruption. It was dated 
August, just a year from the time I had sailed from home; and 
every one was well, and no great change had taken place. Thus, 
for one year, my mind was set at ease, yet it was already six months 
from the date of the letter, and what another year would bring to 
pass, who could tell ? Every one away from home thinks that some 
great thing must have happened, while to those at home there 
seems to be a continued monotony and lack of incident. 

As much as my feelings were taken up by my own intelligence 
from home, I could not but be amused by a scene in the steerage. 
The carpenter had been married just before leaving Boston, and 
during the voyage had talked much about his wife, and had to 
bear and forbear, as every man, known to be married, must, aboard 
ship; yet the certainty of hearing from his wife by the first ship, 
seemed to keep up his spirits. The California came, the packet was 
brought on board; no one was in higher spirits than he; but when 
the letters came forward, there was none for him. The captain 
looked again, but there was no mistake. Poor "Chips," could eat 
no supper. He was completely down in the mouth. "Sails" (the 
sailmaker) tried to comfort him, and told him he was a bloody fool 
to give up his grub for any woman's daughter, and reminded him 
that he had told him a dozen times that he'd never see or hear from 
his wife again. 

"Ah!" said "Chips," "you don't know what it is to have a wife, 
and"— 

"Don't I?" said Sails; and then came, for the hundredth time, 
the story of his coming ashore at New York, from the Constellation 
frigate, after a cruise of four years round the Horn, — being paid 
off with over five hundred dollars, — marrying, and taking a couple 
of rooms in a four-story house, — furnishing the rooms, (with a par- 
ticular account of the furniture, including a dozen flag-bottorned 
chairs, which he always dilated upon, whenever the subject of 
furniture was alluded to,)— going off to sea again, leaving his wife 



250 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

half-pay, like a fool, — coming home and finding her "off, like Bob's 
horse, with nobody to pay the reckoning;" furniture gone, — flag- 
bottomed chairs and all; — and with it, his "long togs," the half- 
pay, his beaver hat, white linen shirts, and everything else. His 
wife he never saw, or heard of, from that day to this, and never 
wished to. Then followed a sweeping assertion, not much to the 
credit of the sex, if true, though he has Pope to back him. "Come, 
Chips, cheer up like a man, and take some hot grub! Don't be 
made a fool of by anything in petticoats! As for your wife, you'll 
never see her again; she was 'up keeleg and off' before you were 
outside of Cape Cod. You hove your money away like a fool; but 
every man must learn once, just as I did; so you'd better square the 
yards with her, and make the best of it." 

This was the best consolation "Sails" had to offer, but it did not 
seem to be just the thing the carpenter wanted; for, during several 
days, he was very much dejected, and bore with difficulty the jokes 
of the sailors, and with still more difficulty their attempts at advice 
and consolation, of most of which the sailmaker's was a good 
specimen. 

Thursday, Feb. 2^th. Set sail for Santa Barbara, where we arrived 
on Sunday, the 28th. We just missed of seeing the California, for 
she had sailed three days before, bound to Monterey, to enter her 
cargo and procure her license, and thence to San Francisco, etc. 

Captain Arthur left files of Boston papers for Captain T , which, 

after they had been read and talked over in the cabin, I procured 
from my friend the third mate. One file was of all the Boston 
Transcripts for the month of August, 1835, and the rest were about 
a dozen Daily Advertisers and Couriers, of different dates. After 
all, there is nothing in a strange land like a newspaper from home. 
Even a letter, in many respects, is nothing, in comparison with it. 
It carries you back to the spot, better than anything else. It is 
almost equal to clairvoyance. The names of the streets, with the 
things advertised, are almost as good as seeing the signs; and while 
reading "Boy lost!" one can almost hear the bell and well-known 
voice of "Old Wilson," crying the boy as "strayed, stolen, or mis- 
laid!" Then there was the Commencement at Cambridge, and the 
full account of the exercises at the graduating of my own class. A 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 25I 

list of all those familiar names, (beginning as usual with Abbot, and 
ending with W.,) which, as I read them over, one by one, brought 
up their faces and characters as I had known them in the various 
scenes of college life. Then I imagined them upon the stage, speak- 
ing their orations, dissertations, colloquies, etc., with the gestures 
and tones of each, and tried to fancy the manner in which each 
would handle his subject, * * * * *^ handsome, showy, and super- 
ficial; * * * *, with his strong head, clear brain, cool self-possession; 
*****, modest, sensitive, and underrated; * * * * *^ the 
mouth-piece of the debating clubs, noisy, vaporous, and democratic; 
and so following. Then I could see them receiving their A.Bs. from 
the dignified, feudal-looking President, with his "auctoritate mihi 
commissa," and walking off the stage with their diplomas in their 
hands; while upon the very same day, their classmate was walking 
up and down California beach with a hide upon his head. 

Every watch below, for a week, I pored over these papers, until I 
was sure there could be nothing in them that had escaped my 
attention, and was ashamed to keep them any longer. 

Saturday, March ^th. This was an important day in our almanac, 
for it was on this day that we were first assured that our voyage was 
really drawing to a close. The captain gave orders to have the ship 
ready for getting under weigh; and observed that there was a good 
breeze to take us down to San Pedro. Then we were not going up 
to windward. Thus much was certain, and was soon known, fore 
and aft; and when we went in the gig to take him off, he shook 
hands with the people on the beach, and said that he never expected 
to see Santa Barbara again. This settled the matter, and sent a 
thrill of pleasure through the heart of every one in the boat. We 
pulled off with a will, saying to ourselves (I can speak for myself at 
least) — "Good-by, Santa Barbara! — This is the last pull here — No 
more duckings in your breakers, and slipping from your cursed 
south-easters!" The news was soon known aboard, and put life 
into everything when we were getting under weigh. Each one was 
taking his last look at the mission, the town, the breakers on the 
beach, and swearing that no money would make him ship to see 
them again; and when all hands tallied on to the cat-fall, the 
chorus of "Time for us to go!" was raised for the first time, and 



252 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

joined in, with full swing, by everybody. One would have thought 
we were on our voyage home, so near did it seem to us, though 
there were yet three months for us on the coast. 

We left here the young Englishman, George Marsh, of whom I 
have before spoken, who was wrecked upon the Pelew Islands. He 
left us to take the berth of second mate on board the Ayacucho, 
which was lying in port. He was well qualified for this, and his 
education would enable him to rise to any situation on board ship. 
I felt really sorry to part from him. There was something about 
him which excited my curiosity; for I could not, for a moment, 
doubt that he was well born, and, in early life, well bred. There 
was the latent gentleman about him, and the sense of honor, and 
no little of the pride, of a young man of good family. The situation 
was offered him only a few hours before we sailed; and though he 
must give up returning to America, yet I have no doubt that the 
change from a dog's berth to an officer's, was too agreeable to his 
feelings to be declined. We pulled him on board the Ayacucho, 
and when he left the boat he gave each of its crew a piece of money, 
except myself, and shook hands with me, nodding his head, as 
much as to say, — "We understand one another," and sprang on 
board. Had I known, an hour sooner, that he was to leave us, I 
would have made an effort to get from him the true history of his 
early life. He knew that I had no faith in the story which he told 
the crew, and perhaps, in the moment of parting from me, probably 
forever, he would have given me the true account. Whether I shall 
ever meet him again, or whether his manuscript narrative of his 
adventures in the Pelew Islands, which would be creditable to him 
and interesting to the world, will ever see the light, I cannot tell. 
His is one of those cases which are more numerous than those sup- 
pose, who have never lived anywhere but in their own homes, and 
never walked but in one line from their cradles to their graves. 
We must come down from our heights, and leave our straight 
paths, for the byways and low places of life, if we would learn 
truths by strong contrasts; and in hovels, in forecastles, and among 
our own outcasts in foreign lands, see what has been wrought upon 
our fellow-creatures by accident, hardship, or vice. 

Two days brought us to San Pedro, and two days more (to our 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 253 

no small joy) gave us our last view of that place, which was uni- 
versally called the hell of California, and seemed designed, in every 
way, for the wear and tear of sailors. Not even the last view could 
bring out one feeling of regret. No thanks, thought I, as we left 
the sandy shores in the distance, for the hours I have walked over 
your stones, barefooted, with hides on my head; — for the burdens 
I have carried up your steep, muddy hill; — ^for the duckings in your 
surf; and for the long days and longer nights passed on your desolate 
hill, watching piles of hides, hearing the sharp bark of your eternal 
coati, and the dismal hooting of your owls. 

As I bade good-by to each successive place, I felt as though one 
link after another were struck from the chain of my servitude. 
Having kept close in shore, for the land-breeze, we passed the 
mission of San Juan Campestrano the same night, and saw dis- 
tinctly, by the bright moonlight, the hill which I had gone down 
by a pair of halyards in search of a few paltry hides. "Forsan et 
hasc olim," thought I, and took my last look of that place too. And 
on the next morning we were under the high point of San Diego. 
The flood tide took us swiftly in, and we came-to, opposite our 
hide-house, and prepared to get everything in trim for a long stay. 
This was our last port. Here we were to discharge everything from 
the ship, clean her out, smoke her, take in our hides, wood, water, 
etc., and set sail for Boston. While all this was doing, we were to 
lie still in one place, and the port was a safe one, and there was no 
fear of south-easters. Accordingly, having picked out a good berth, 
in the stream, with a good smooth beach opposite, for a landing- 
place and within two cables' length of our hide-house, we moored 
ship, unbent all the sails, sent down the top-gallant yards and all 
the studding-sail booms, and housed the top-gallant masts. The 
boats were then hove out, and all the sails, spare spars, the stores, 
the rigging not rove, and, in fact, everything which was not in 
daily use, sent ashore, and stowed away in the house. Then went 
all our hides and horns, and we left hardly anything in the ship 
but her ballast, and this we made preparation to heave out, the next 
day. At night, after we had knocked off, and were sitting round in 
the forecastle, smoking and talking and taking sailor's pleasure, we 
congratulated ourselves upon being in that situation in which we 



254 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

had wished ourselves every time we had come into San Diego. "If 
we were only here for the last time," we had often said, "with our 
top-gallant masts housed and our sails unbent!" — and now we had 
our wish. Six weeks, or two months, of the hardest work we had 
yet seen, was before us, and then — "Good-by to California!" 



CHAPTER XXIX 

Loading for Home — A Surprise — ^Last of an Old Friend — The 

Last Hide — A Hard Case — Up Anchor, for Home! — 

Homeward Bound 

WE TURNED-IN early, knowing that we might expect an 
early call; and sure enough, before the stars had quite 
faded, "All hands ahoy!" and we were turned-to, heaving 
out ballast. A regulation of the port forbids any ballast to be thrown 
overboard; accordingly, our long-boat was lined inside with rough 
boards and brought alongside the gangway, but where one tub-full 
went into the boat, twenty went overboard. This is done by every 
vessel, for the ballast can make but little difference in the channel, 
and it saves more than a week of labor, which would be spent in 
loading the boats, rowing them to the point, and unloading them. 
When any people from the Presidio were on board, the boat was 
hauled up and ballast thrown in; but when the coast was clear, she 
was dropped astern again, and the ballast fell overboard. This is 
one of those petty frauds which every vessel practises in ports of 
inferior foreign nations, and which are lost sight of, among the 
countless deeds of greater weight which are hardly less common. 
Fortunately a sailor, not being a free agent in work aboard ship, 
is not accountable; yet the fact of being constantly employed, with- 
out thought, in such things, begets an indifference to the rights of 
others. 

Friday, and a part of Saturday, we were engaged in this work, 
until we had thrown out all but what we wanted under our cargo 
on the passage home; when, as the next day was Sunday, and a good 
day for smoking ship, we cleared everything out of the cabin and 
forecastle, made a slow fire of charcoal, birch bark, brimstone, and 
other matters, on the ballast in the bottom of the hold, calked up 
the hatches and every open seam, and pasted over the cracks of the 
windows, and the slides of the scutdes, and companionway. Wher- 

355 



256 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

ever smoke was seen coming out, we calked and pasted, and, so far 
as we could, made the ship smoke tight. The captain and officers 
slept under the awning which was spread over the quarter-deck; 
and we stowed ourselves away under an old studding-sail, which 
we drew over one side of the forecastle. The next day, from fear that 
something might happen, orders were given for no one to leave the 
ship, and, as the decks were lumbered up with everything, we could 
not wash them down, so we had nothing to do, all day long. Un- 
fortunately, our books were where we could not get at them, and 
we were turning about for something to do, when one man rec- 
ollected a book he had left in the galley. He went after it, and it 
proved to be Woodstock. This was a great windfall, and as all 
could not read it at once, I, being the scholar of the company, was 
appointed reader. I got a knot of six or eight about me, and no one 
could have had a more attentive audience. Some laughed at the 
"scholars," and went over the other side of the forecastle, to work, 
and spin their yarns; but I carried the day, and had the cream of 
the crew for my hearers. Many of the reflections, and the political 
parts, I omitted, but all the narrative they were delighted with; 
especially the descriptions of the Puritans, and the sermons and 
harangues of the Round-head soldiers. The gallantry of Charles, Dr. 
Radcliflfe's plots, the knavery of "trusty Tompkins," — in fact, every 
part seemed to chain their attention. Many things which, while I 
was reading, 1 had a misgiving about, thinking them above their 
capacity, I was surprised to find them enter into completely. 

I read nearly all day, until sundown; when, as soon as supper 
was over, as I had nearly finished, they got a light from the galley; 
and by skipping what was less interesting, I carried them through 
to the marriage of Everard, and the restoration of Charles the 
Second, before eight o'clock. 

The next morning, we took the battens from the hatches, and 
opened the ship. A few stifled rats were found; and what bugs, 
cockroaches, fleas, and other vermin, there might have been on 
board, must have unrove their life-lines before the hatches were 
opened. The ship being now ready, we covered the bottom of the 
hold over, fore and aft, with dried brush for dunnage, and having 
levelled everything away, we were ready to take in our cargo. All 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 257 

the hides that had been collected since the California left the coast, 
(a little more than two years,) amounting to about forty thousand, 
were cured, dried, and stowed away in the house, waiting for our 
good ship to take them to Boston. 

Now began the operation of taking in our cargo, which kept us 
hard at work, from the grey of the morning till star-light, for six 
weeks, with the exception of Sundays, and of just time to swallow 
our meals. To carry the work on quicker, a division of labor was 
made. Two men threw the hides down from the piles in the house, 
two more picked them up and put them on a long horizontal pole, 
raised a few feet from the ground, where they were beaten, by two 
more, with flails, somewhat like those used in threshing wheat. 
When beaten, they were taken from this pole by two more, and 
placed upon a platform of boards; and ten or a dozen men, with 
their trowsers rolled up, were constantly going, back and forth, from 
the platform to the boat, which was kept off where she would just 
float, with the hides upon their heads. The throwing the hides upon 
the pole was the most difficult work, and required a sleight of hand 
which was only to be got by long practice. As I was known for a 
hide-curer, this post was assigned to me, and I continued at it for 
six or eight days, tossing, in that time, from eight to ten thousand 
hides, until my wrists became so lame that I gave in; and was trans- 
ferred to the gang that was employed in filling the boats, where I 
remained for the rest of the time. As we were obliged to carry the 
hides on our heads from fear of their getting wet, we each had a 
piece of sheepskin sewed into the inside of our hats, with the wool 
next to our heads, and thus were able to bear the weight, day after 
day, which would otherwise have soon worn off our hair, and 
borne hard upon our skulls. Upon the whole, ours was the best 
berth; for though the water was nipping cold, early in the morning 
and late at night, and being so continually wet was rather an expos- 
ure, yet we got rid of the constant dust and dirt from the beating of 
the hides, and being all of us young and hearty, did not mind the 
exposure. The older men of the crew, whom it would have been 
dangerous to have kept in the water, remained on board with the 
mate, to stow the hides away, as fast as they were brought off by 
the boats. 



258 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

We continued at work in this manner until the lower hold was 
filled to within four feet of the beams, when all hands were called 
aboard to commence steeving. As this is a peculiar operation, it 
will require a minute description. 

Before stowing the hides, as I have said, the ballast is levelled off, 
just above the keelson, and then loose dunnage placed upon it, on 
which the hides rest. The greatest care is used in stowing, to make 
the ship hold as many hides as possible. It is no mean art, and a 
man skilled in it is an important character in California. Many a 
dispute have I heard raging high between professed "beach-combers," 
as to whether the hides should be stowed "shingling," or "back-to- 
back, and flipper-to-flipper;" upon which point there was an entire 
and bitter division of sentiment among the savans. We adopted 
each method at different periods of the stowing, and parties ran 
high in the forecastle, some siding with "old Bill" in favor of the 
former, and others scouting him, and relying upon "Enghsh Bob" 
of the Ayacucho, who had been eight years in California, and was 
willing to risk his life and limb for the latter method. At length a 
compromise was effected, and a middle course, of shifting the ends 
and backs at every lay, was adopted, which worked well, and which, 
though they held it inferior to their own, each party granted was 
better than that of the other. 

Having filled the ship up, in this way, to within four feet of her 
beams, the process of steeving commenced, by which an hundred 
hides are got into a place where one could not be forced by hand, 
and which presses the hides to the utmost, sometimes starting the 
beams of the ship, resembling in its effects the jack-screws which are 
used in stowing cotton. Each morning we went ashore, and beat 
and brought off as many hides as we could steeve in the course of 
the day, and, after breakfast, went down into the hold, where we 
remained at work until night. The whole length of the hold, from 
stem to stern, was floored off level, and we began with raising a pile 
in the after part, hard against the bulkhead of the run, and filling it 
up to the beams, crowding in as many as we could by hand and 
pushing in with oars; when a large "book" was made of from 
twenty-five to fifty hides, doubled at the backs, and put into one 
another, like the leaves of a book. An opening was then made 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 259 

between two hides in the pile, and the back of the outside hide of 
the book inserted. Two long, heavy spars, called steeves, made of 
the strongest wood, and sharpened off like a wedge at one end, 
were placed with their wedge ends into the inside of the hide which 
was the centre of the book, and to the other end of each, straps were 
fitted, into which large tackles were hooked, composed each of two 
huge purchase blocks, one hooked to the strap on the end of the 
steeve, and the other into a dog, fastened into one of the beams, 
as far aft as it could be got. When this was arranged, and the ways 
greased upon which the book was to slide, the falls of the tackles 
were stretched forward, and all hands tallied on, and bowsed away 
until the book was well entered; when these tackles were nippered, 
straps and toggles clapped upon the falls, and two more luff tackles 
hooked on, with dogs, in the same manner; and thus, by luff upon 
luff, the power was multiplied, until into a pile in which one hide 
more could not be crowded by hand, an hundred or an hundred 
and fifty were often driven in by this complication of purchases. 
When the last luff was hooked on, all hands were called to the 
rope — cook, steward, and all — and ranging ourselves at the falls, 
one behind the other, sitting down on the hides, with our heads just 
even with the beams, we set taught upon the tackles, and striking 
up a song, and all lying back at the chorus, we bowsed the tackles 
home, and drove the large books chock in out of sight. 

The sailor's songs for capstans and falls are of a peculiar kind, 
having a chorus at the end of each line. The burden is usually 
sung, by one alone, and, at the chorus, all hands join in, — and the 
louder the noise, the better. With us, the chorus seemed almost to 
raise the decks of the ship, and might be heard at a great distance, 
ashore. A song is as necessary to sailors as the drum and fife to a 
soldier. They can't pull in time, or pull with a will, without it. 
Many a time, when a thing goes heavy, with one fellow yo-ho-ing, 
a lively song, like "Heave, to the girls!" "Nancy oh!" "Jack Cross- 
tree," etc., has put life and strength into every arm. We often found 
a great difference in the effect of the different songs in driving in 
the hides. Two or three songs would be tried, one after the other, 
with no effect; — not an inch could be got upon the tackles — when a 
new song, struck up, seemed to hit the humor of the moment, and 



26o RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

drove the tackles "two blocks" at once. "Heave round hearty!" 
"Captain gone ashore!" and the Uke, might do for common pulls, 
but in an emergency, when we wanted a heavy, "raise-the-dead" 
pull, which should start the beams of the ship, there was nothing like 
"Time for us to go!" "Round the corner," or "Hurrah! hurrah! my 
hearty bulUes!" 

This was the most lively part of our work. A Httle boating and 
beach work in the morning; then twenty or thirty men down in a 
close hold, where we were obliged to sit down and slide about, 
passing hides, and rowsing about the great steeves, tackles, and dogs, 
singing out at the falls, and seeing the ship filling up every day. 
The work was as hard as it could well be. There was not a moment's 
cessation from Monday morning till Saturday night, when we were 
generally beaten out, and glad to have a full night's rest, a wash 
and shift of clothes, and a quiet Sunday. During all this time, — 
which would have startled Dr. Graham — we lived upon almost 
nothing but fresh beef; fried beefsteaks, three times a day, — morn- 
ing, noon, and night. At morning and night we had a quart of 
tea to each man; and an allowance of about a pound of hard bread 
a day; but our chief article of food was the beef. A mess, consist- 
ing of six men, had a large wooden kid piled up with beefsteaks, 
cut thick, and fried in fat, with the grease poured over them. Round 
this we sat, attacking it with our jack-knives and teeth, and with the 
appetite of young lions, and sent back an empty kid to the galley. 
This was done three times a day. How many pounds each man ate 
in a day, I will not attempt to compute. A whole bullock (we ate 
liver and all) lasted us but four days. Such devouring of flesh, I will 
venture to say, was seldom known before. What one man ate in a 
day, over a hearty man's allowance, would make a Russian's heart 
leap into his mouth. Indeed, during all the time we were upon the 
coast, our principal food was fresh beef, and every man had perfect 
health; but this was a time of especial devouring; and what we 
should have done without meat, I cannot tell. Once or twice, when 
our bullocks failed and we were obliged to make a meal upon dry 
bread and water, it seemed like feeding upon shavings. Light and 
dry, feeling unsatisfied, and, at the same time, full, we were glad 
to see four quarters of a bullock, just killed, swinging from the 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 261 

fore-top. Whatever theories may be started by sedentary men, cer- 
tainly no men could have gone through more hard work and 
exposure for sixteen months in more perfect health, and without 
ailings and failings, than our ship's crew, let them have lived upon 
Hygeia's own baking and dressing. 

Friday, April j^th. Arrived, brig Pilgrim, from the windward. 
It was a sad sight for her crew to see us getting ready to go off 
the coast, while they, who had been longer on the coast than the 
Alert, were condemned to another year's hard service. I spent an 
evening on board, and found them making the best of the matter, 

and determined to rough it out as they might; but my friend S 

was determined to go home in the ship, if money or interest could 
bring it to pass. After considerable negotiating and working, he 
succeeded in persuading my English friend, Tom Harris, — my com- 
panion in the anchor watch — for thirty dollars, some clothes, and an 
intimation from Captain Faucon that he should want a second mate 
before the voyage was up, to take his place in the brig as soon as 
she was ready to go up to windward. 

The first opportunity I could get to speak to Captain Faucon, I 
asked him to step up to the oven and look at Hope, whom he knew 
well, having had him on board his vessel. He went to see him, but 
said that he had so little medicine, and expected to be so long on 
the coast, that he could do nothing for him, but that Captain Arthur 
would take care of him when he came down in the California, 
which would be in a week or more. I had been to see Hope the first 
night after we got into San Diego this last time, and had frequently 
since spent the early part of a night in the oven. I hardly expected, 
when I left him to go to windward, to find him alive upon my 
return. He was certainly as low as he could well be when I left 
him, and what would be the effect of the medicines that I gave him, 
I hardly then dared to conjecture. Yet I knew that he must die 
without them. I was not a little rejoiced, therefore, and relieved, 
upon our return, to see him decidedly better. The medicines were 
strong, and took hold and gave a check to the disorder which was 
destroying him; and, more than that, they had begun the work of 
exterminating it. I shall never forget the gratitude that he expressed. 
All the Kanakas attributed his escape solely to my knowledge, and 



262 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

would not be persuaded that I had not all the secrets of the physical 
system open to me and under my control. My medicines, however, 
were gone, and no more could be got from the ship, so that his life 
was left to hang upon the arrival of the California. 

Sunday, April 24th. We had now been nearly seven weeks in San 
Diego, and had taken in the greater part of our cargo, and were 
looking out, every day, for the arrival of the California, which had 
our agent on board; when, this afternoon, some Kanakas, who had 
been over the hill for rabbits and to fight rattlesnakes, came running 
down the path, singing out, "Kail ho!" with all their might. Mr. 
H., our third mate, was ashore, and asking them particularly about 
the size of the sail, etc., and learning that it was "Moku — Nui Mo\u," 
hailed our ship, and said that the California was on the other side 
of the point. Instantly, all hands were turned up, the bow guns 
run out and loaded, the ensign and broad pennant set, the yards 
squared by lifts and braces, and everything got ready to make a 
good appearance. The instant she showed her nose round the point, 
we began our salute. She came in under top-gallant sails, clewed 
up and furled her sails in good order, and came-to, within good 
swinging distance of us. It being Sunday, and nothing to do, all 
hands were on the forecastle, criticising the new-comer. She was a 
good, substantial ship, not quite so long as the Alert, and wall-sided 
and kettle-bottomed, after the latest fashion of south-shore cotton 
and sugar wagons; strong, too, and tight, and a good average sailor, 
but with no pretensions to beauty, and nothing in the style of a 
"crack ship." Upon the whole, we were perfectly satisfied that the 
Alert might hold up her head with a ship twice as smart as she. 

At night, some of us got a boat and went on board, and found 
a large, roomy forecastle, (for she was squarer forward than the 
Alert,) and a crew of a dozen or fifteen men and boys, sitting around 
on their chests, smoking and talking, and ready to give a welcome 
to any of our ship's company. It was just seven months since they 
left Boston, which seemed but yesterday to us. Accordingly, we 
had much to ask, for though we had seen the newspapers that she 
brought, yet these were the very men who had been in Boston and 
seen everything with their own eyes. One of the green-hands was a 
Boston boy, from one of the public schools, and, of course, knew many 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 2^3 

things which we wished to ask about, and on inquiring the names 
of our two Boston boys, found that they had been schoolmates of 
his. Our men had hundreds of questions to ask about Ann street, 
the boarding-houses, the ships in port, the rate of wages, and other 
matters. 

Among her crew were two English man-of-war's-men, so that, of 
course, we soon had music. They sang in the true sailor's style, and 
the rest of the crew, which was a remarkably musical one, joined in 
the choruses. They had many of the latest sailor songs, which had 
not yet got about among our merchantmen, and which they were 
very choice of. They began soon after we came on board, and kept 
it up until after two bells, when the second mate came forward and 
called "the Alerts away!" Battle-songs, drinking-songs, boat-songs, 
love-songs, and everything else, they seemed to have a complete 
assortment of, and I was glad to find that "All in the Downs," "Poor 
Tom Bowline," "The Bay of Biscay," "List, ye Landsmen!" and all 
those classical songs of the sea, still held their places. In addition 
to these, they had picked up at the theatres and other places a few 
songs of a little more genteel cast, which they were very proud of; 
and I shall never forget hearing an old salt, who had broken his 
voice by hard drinking on shore, and bellowing from the mast-head 
in a hundred north-westers, with all manner of ungovernable trills 
and quavers — ^in the high notes, breaking into a rough falsetto — and 
in the low ones, growling along like the dying away of the boat- 
swain's "all hands ahoy!" down the hatch-way, singing, "Oh, no, 
we never mention him." 

"Perhaps, like me, he struggles with 
Each feeling of regret; 
But if he's loved as I have loved, 
He never can forget!" 

The last line, being the conclusion, he roared out at the top of his 
voice, breaking each word up into half a dozen syllables. This was 
very popular, and Jack was called upon every night to give them 
his "sentimental song." No one called for it more loudly than I, 
for the complete absurdity of the execution, and the sailors' perfect 
satisfaction in it, were ludicrous beyond measure. 



264 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

The next day, the California commenced unloading her cargo; 
and her boats' crews, in coming and going, sang their boat-songs, 
keeping time with their oars. This they did all day long for several 
days, until their hides were all discharged, when a gang of them 
were sent on board the Alert, to help us steeve our hides. This was 
a windfall for us, for they had a set of new songs for the capstan 
and fall, and ours had got nearly worn out by six weeks' constant 
use. I have no doubt that this timely reinforcement of songs has- 
tened our work several days. 

Our cargo was now nearly all taken in; and my old friend, the 
Pilgrim, having completed her discharge, unmoored, to set sail the 
next morning on another long trip to windward. I was just think- 
ing of her hard lot, and congratulating myself upon my escape 
from her, when I received a summons into the cabin. I went aft, 
and there found, seated round the cabin table, my own captain. 

Captain Faucon of the Pilgrim, and Mr. R , the agent. Captain 

T turned to me and asked abruptly — 

"D , do you want to go home in the ship?" 

"Certainly, sir," said I; "I expect to go home in the ship." 

"Then," said he, "you must get some one to go in your place on 
board the Pilgrim." 

I was so completely "taken aback" by this sudden intimation, 
that for a moment I could make no reply. I knew that it would be 
hopeless to attempt to prevail upon any of the ship's crew to take 
twelve months more upon the California in the brig. I knew, too, 

that Captain T had received orders to bring me home in the 

Alert, and he had told me, when I was at the hide-house, that I 
was to go home in her; and even if this had not been so, it was 
cruel to give me no notice of the step they were going to take, until 
a few hours before the brig would sail. As soon as I had got my 
wits about me, I put on a bold front, and told him plainly that I 
had a letter in my chest informing me that he had been written to, 
by the owners in Boston, to bring me home in the ship, and more- 
over, that he had told me that I was to go in the ship. 

To have this told him, and to be opposed in such a manner, was 
more than my lord paramount had been used to. 

He turned fiercely upon me, and tried to look me down, and 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 265 

face me out of my statement; but finding that that wouldn't do, 
and that I was entering upon my defence in such a way as would 
show to the other two that he was in the wrong, — he changed his 
ground, and pointed to the shipping papers of the Pilgrim, from 
which my name had never been erased, and said that there was 
my name, — that I belonged to her, — that he had an absolute dis- 
cretionary power, — and, in short, that I must be on board the Pilgrim 
by the next morning with my chest and hammock, or have some 
one ready to go in my place, and that he would not hear another 
word from me. No court or star chamber could proceed more 
summarily with a poor devil, than this trio was about to do with 
me; condemning me to a punishment worse than a Botany Bay 
exile, and to a fate which would alter the whole current of my future 
life; for two years more in Cahfornia would have made me a sailor 
for the rest of my days. I felt all this, and saw the necessity of 
being determined. I repeated what I had said, and insisted upon 
my right to return in the ship. 

I "raised my arm, and tauld my crack, 
Before them a'." 

But it would have all availed me nothing, had I been "some 
poor body," before this absolute, domineering tribunal. But they 
saw that I would not go, unless "vi et armis," and they knew that 
I had friends and interest enough at home to make them suffer for 
any injustice they might do me. It was probably this that turned 
the matter; for the captain changed his tone entirely, and asked me 
if, in case any one went in my place, I would give him the same sum 

that S gave Harris to exchange with him. I told him that if 

any one was sent on board the brig, I shoiJd pity him, and be willing 
to help him to that, or almost any amount; but would not speak of 
it as an exchange. 

"Very well," said he. "Go torward about your business, and send 
English Ben here to me!" 

I went forward with a light heart, but feeling as angry, and as 
much contempt as I could well contain between my teeth. English 
Ben was sent aft, and in a few moments came forward, looking as 
though he had received his sentence to be hung. The captain had 



266 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

told him to get his things ready to go on board the brig the next 
morning; and that I would give him thirty dollars and a suit of 
clothes. The hands had "knocked off" for dinner, and were stand- 
ing about the forecastle, when Ben came forward and told his story. 
I could see plainly that it made a great excitement, and that, unless 
I explained the matter to them, the feeling would be turned against 
me. Ben was a poor English boy, a stranger in Boston, and without 
friends or money; and being an active, willing lad, and a good sailor 
for his years, was a general favorite. "Oh, yes!" said the crew, "the 
captain has let you off, because you are a gentleman's son, and have 
got friends, and know the owners; and taken Ben, because he is 
poor, and has got nobody to say a word for him!" I knew that this 
was too true to be answered, but I excused myself from any blame, 
and told them that I had a right to go home, at all events. This 
pacified them a little, but Jack had got a notion that a poor lad was to 
be imposed upon, and did not distinguish very clearly; and though 
I knew that I was in no fault, and, in fact, had barely escaped the 
grossest injustice, yet I felt that my berth was getting to be a dis- 
agreeable one. The notion that I was not "one of them," which, by 
a participation in all their labor and hardships, and having no favor 
shown me, had been laid asleep, was beginning to revive. But far 
stronger than any feeling for myself, was the pity I felt for the poor 
lad. He had depended upon going home in the ship; and from 
Boston, was going immediately to Liverpool, to see his friends. Be- 
side this, having begun the voyage with very few clothes, he had 
taken up the greater part of his wages in the slop-chest, and it was 
every day a losing concern to him; and, like all the rest of the crew, 
he had a hearty hatred of California, and the prospect of eighteen 
months or two years more of hide-droghing seemed completely to 
break down his spirit. I had determined not to go myself, happen 
what would, and I knew that the captain would not dare to attempt 
to force me. I knew, too, that the two captains had agreed together 
to get some one, and that unless I could prevail upon somebody to 
go voluntarily, there would be no help for Ben. From this con- 
sideration, though I had said that I would have nothing to do with 
an exchange, I did my best to get some one to go voluntarily. I 
offered to give an order upon the owners in Boston for six months' 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 267 

,wages, and also all the clothes, books, and other matters, which I 
should not want upon the voyage home. When this offer was pub- 
lished in the ship, and the case o£ poor Ben was set forth in strong 
colors, several, who would not have dreamed of going themselves, 
were busy in talking it up to others, who, they thought, might be 
tempted to accept it; and, at length, one fellow, a harum-scarum lad, 
whom we called Harry Bluff, and who did not care what country 
or ship he was in, if he had clothes enough and money enough — 
partly from pity for Ben, and partly from the thought he should 
have "cruising money" for the rest of his stay, — came forward, and 
offered to go and "sling his hammock in the bloody hooker." Lest 
his purpose should cool, I signed an order for the sum upon the 
owners in Boston, gave him all the clothes I could spare, and sent 
him aft to the captain, to let him know what had been done. The 
skipper accepted the exchange, and was, doubtless, glad to have it 
pass off so easily. At the same time he cashed the order, which was 
endorsed to him,' and the next morning, the lad went aboard the 
brig, apparently in good spirits, having shaken hands with each of 
us and wished us a pleasant passage home, jingling the money in 
his pockets, and calling out, "Never say die, while there's a shot in 
the locker." The same boat carried off Harris, my old watchmate, 

who had previously made an exchange with my friend S . 

I was sorry to part with Harris. Nearly two hundred hours (as 
we had calculated it) had we walked the ship's deck together, at 
anchor watch, when all hands were below, and talked over and 
over every subject which came within the ken of either of us. He 
gave me a strong gripe with his hand; and I told him, if he came 
to Boston again, not to fail to find me out, and let me see an old 

watchmate. The same boat brought on board S , my friend, who 

had begun the voyage with me from Boston, and, like me, was 
going back to his family and to the society which we had been born 
and brought up in. We congratulated one another upon finding 
what we had long talked over and wished for, thus brought about; 
and none on board the ship were more glad than ourselves to see 
the old brig standing round the point, under full sail. As she passed 

■When the crew were paid off in Boston, the owners answered the order, but 
generously refused to deduct the amount from the pay-roll, saying that the exchange 
was made under compulsion. They also allowed S his exchange money. 



268 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

abreast of us, we all collected in the waist, and gave her three loud, 
hearty cheers, waving our hats in the air. Her crew sprang into the 
rigging and chains, answered us with three as loud, to which we, 
after the nautical custom, gave one in return. I took my last look 
of their familiar faces as they got over the rail, and saw the old 
black cook put his head out of the galley, and wave his cap over 
his head. The crew flew aloft to loose the top-gallant sails and 
royals; the two captains waved their hands to one another; and, 
in ten minutes, we saw the last inch of her white canvas, as she 
rounded the point. 

Relieved as I was to see her well off, (and I felt like one who had 
just sprung from an iron trap which was closing upon him) I had 
yet a feeling of regret at taking the last look at the old craft in 
which I had spent a year, and the first year, of my sailor's life — 
which had been my first home in the new world into which I had 
entered— and with which I had associated so many things, — my 
first leaving home, my first crossing the equator. Cape Horn, Juan 
Fernandez, death at sea, and other things, serious and common. 
Yet, with all this, and the feeling I had for my old shipmates, con- 
demned to another term of California life, the thought that we 
were done with it, and that one week more would see us on our way 
to Boston, was a cure for everything. 

Friday, May 6th, completed the taking of our cargo, and was a 
memorable day in our calendar. The time when we were to take 
in our last hide, we had looked forward to, for sixteen months, as 
the first bright spot. When the last hide was stowed away, and the 
hatches calked down, the tarpaulins battened on to them, the long- 
boat hoisted in and secured, and the decks swept down for the 
night, — the chief mate sprang upon the top of the long-boat, called 
all hands into the waist, and giving us a signal by swinging his cap 
over his head, — we gave three long, loud cheers, which came from 
the bottom of our hearts, and made the hills and valleys ring again. 
In a moment, we heard three, in answer, from the California's crew, 
who had seen us taking in our long-boat, and — "the cry they heard — 
its meaning knew." 

The last week, we had been occupied in taking in a supply of 
wood and water for the passage home, and bringing on board the 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 269 

spare spars, sails, etc. I was sent off with a party of Indians to fill 
the water-casks, at a spring, about three miles from the shipping, 
and near the town, and was absent three days, living at the town, 
and spending the daytime in filling the casks and transporting 
them on ox-carts to the landing-place, whence they were taken on 
board by the crew with boats. This being all done with, we gave 
one day to bending our sails; and at night, every sail, from the 
courses to the skysails, was bent, and every studding-sail ready for 
setting. 

Before our sailing, an unsuccessful attempt was made by one of 
the crew of the California to effect an exchange with one of our 
number. It was a lad, between fifteen and sixteen years of age, who 
went by the name of the "reefer," having been a midshipman in an 
East India Company's ship. His singular character and story had 
excited our interest ever since the ship came into the port. He was 
a delicate, slender little fellow, with a beautiful pearly complexion, 
regular features, forehead as white as marble, black haired, curling 
beautifully, rounded, tapering, delicate fingers, small feet, soft voice, 
gentle manners, and, in fact, every sign of having been well born 
and bred. At the same time there was something in his expression 
which showed a slight deficiency of intellect. How great the de- 
ficiency was, or what it resulted from; whether he was born so; 
whether it was the result of disease or accident; or whether, as some 
said, it was brought on by his distress of mind, during the voyage, 
I cannot say. From his own account of himself, and from many 
circumstances which were known in connection with his story, he 
must have been the son of a man of wealth. His mother was an 
Italian woman. He was probably a natural son, for in scarcely any 
other way could the incidents of his early life be accounted for. He 
said that his parents did not live together, and he seemed to have 
been ill treated by his father. Though he had been delicately 
brought up, and indulged in every way, (and he had then with him 
trinkets which had been given him at home,) yet his education had 
been sadly neglected; and when only twelve years old, he was sent 
as midshipman in the Company's service. His own story was, that 
he afterwards ran away from home, upon a difficulty which he 
had with his father, and went to Liverpool, whence he sailed in 



270 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

the ship Rialto, Captain Holmes, for Boston. Captain Holmes 
endeavored to get him a passage back, but there being no vessel to 
sail for some time, the boy left him, and went to board at a common 
sailor's boarding-house, in Ann street, where he supported himself 
for a few weeks by selling some of his valuables. At length, accord- 
ing to his own account, being desirous of returning home, he went 
to a shipping-office, where the shipping articles of the California 
were open. Upon asking where the ship was going, he was told 
by the shipping-master that she was bound to California. Not 
knowing where that was, he told him that he wanted to go to 
Europe, and asked if California was in Europe. The shipping- 
master answered him in a way which the boy did not understand, 
and advised him to ship. The boy signed the articles, received his 
advance, laid out a little of it in clothes, and spent the rest, and was 
ready to go on board, when, upon the morning of sailing, he heard 
that the ship was bound upon the North-west Coast, on a two or 
three years' voyage, and was not going to Europe. Frightened at 
this prospect, he slipped away when the crew was going aboard, 
wandered up into another part of the town, and spent all the fore- 
noon In straying about the common, and the neighboring streets. 
Having no money, and all his clothes and other things being in the 
chest, on board, and being a stranger, he became tired and hungry, 
and ventured down toward the shipping, to see if the vessel had 
sailed. He was just turning the corner of a street, when the shipping- 
master, who had been in search of him, popped upon him, seized 
him, and carried him on board. He cried and struggled, and said 
he did not wish to go in the ship, but the topsails were at the mast- 
head, the fasts just ready to be cast off, and everything in the hurry 
and confusion of departure, so that he was hardly noticed; and the 
few who did inquire about the matter were told that it was merely 
a boy who had spent his advance and tried to run away. Had the 
owners of the vessel known anything of the matter, they would 
have interfered at once; but they either knew nothing of it, or 
heard, like the rest, that it was only an unruly boy who was sick 
of his bargain. As soon as the boy found himself actually at sea, 
and upon a voyage of two or three years in length, his spirits failed 
him; he refused to work, and became so miserable, that Captain 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 27I 

Arthur took him into the cabin, where he assisted the steward, and 
occasionally pulled and hauled about decks. He was in this capacity 
when we saw him; and though it was much better for him than 
the hfe in the forecastle, and the hard work, watching, and exposure, 
which his delicate frame could not have borne, yet, to be joined 
with a black fellow in waiting upon a man whom he probably 
looked upon as but little, in point of education and manners, above 
one of his father's servants, was almost too much for his spirit to 
bear. Had he entered upon his situation of his own free will, he 
could have endured it; but to have been deceived, and, in addition 
to that, forced into it, was intolerable. He made every effort to go 
home in our ship, but his captain refused to part with him except 
in the way of exchange, and that he could not effect. If this account 
of the whole matter, which we had from the boy, and which was 
confirmed by all the crew, be correct, I cannot understand why Cap- 
tain Arthur should have refused to let him go, especially being a 
captain who had the name, not only with that crew, but with all 
whom he had ever commanded, of an unusually kind-hearted man. 
The truth is, the unlimited power which merchant captains have, 
upon long voyages on strange coasts, takes away a sense of re- 
sponsibility, and too often, even in men otherwise well-disposed, 
substitutes a disregard for the rights and feelings of others. The lad 
was sent on shore to join the gang at the hide-house; from whence, 
I was afterwards rejoiced to hear, he effected his escape, and went 
down to Callao in a small Spanish schooner; and from Callao, he 
probably returned to England. 

Soon after the arrival of the California, I spoke to Captain Arthur 
about Hope; and as he had known him on the voyage before, and 
was very fond of him, he immediately went to see him, gave him 
proper medicines, and, under such care, he began rapidly to re- 
cover. The Saturday night before our sailing, I spent an hour in 
the oven, and took leave of my Kanaka friends; and, really, this was 
the only thing connected with leaving California which was in 
any way unpleasant. I felt an interest and affection for many of 
these simple, true-hearted men, such as I nev^r felt before but for 
a near relation. Hope shook me by the hand, said he should soon 
be well again, and ready to work for me when I came upon the 



272 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

coast, next voyage, as officer of the ship; and told me not to forget, 
when I became captain, how to be kind to the sick. Old "Mr. 
Bingham" and "King Mannini" went down to the boat with me, 
shook me heartily by the hand, wished us a good voyage, and went 
back to the oven, chanting one of their deep monotonous songs, 
the burden of which I gathered to be about us and our voyage. 

Sunday, May 8th. This promised to be our last day in California. 
Our forty thousand hides, thirty thousand horns, besides several 
barrels of otter and beaver skins, were all stowed below, and the 
hatches calked down. All our spare spars were taken on board and 
lashed; our water-casks secured; and our live stock, consisting of 
four bullocks, a dozen sheep, a dozen or more pigs, and three or 
four dozen of poultry, were all stowed away in their different 
quarters: the bullocks in the long-boat, the sheep in a pen on the 
fore-hatch, and the pigs in a sty under the bows of the long-boat, 
and the poultry in their proper coop; and the jolly-boat was full of 
hay for the sheep and bullocks. Our unusually large cargo, together 
with the stores for a five months' voyage, brought the ship channels 
down into the water. In addition to this, she had been steeved so 
thoroughly, and was so bound by the compression of her cargo, 
forced into her by so powerful machinery, that she was like a man 
in a straight-jacket, and would be but a dull sailer, until she had 
worked herself loose. 

The California had finished discharging her cargo, and was to 
get under weigh at the same time with us. Having washed down 
decks and got our breakfast, the two vessels lay side by side, in 
complete readiness for sea, our ensigns hanging from the peaks, 
and our tall spars reflected from the glassy surface of the river, 
which, since sunrise, had been unbroken by a ripple. At length, a 
few whiffs came across the water, and, by eleven o'clock, the regular 
north-west wind set steadily in. There was no need of calling all 
hands, for we had all been hanging about the forecastle the whole 
forenoon, and were ready for a start upon the first sign of a breeze. 
All eyes were aft upon the captain, who was walking the deck, with, 
every now and then, a look to windward. He made a sign to the 
mate, who came forward, took his station, deliberately between the 
knight-heads, cast a glance aloft, and called out, "AH hands, lay 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 273 

aloft and loose the sails!" We were half in the rigging before tlie 
order came, and never since we left Boston were the gaskets off the 
yards, and the rigging overhauled, in a shorter time. "All ready 
forward, sir!" — "All ready the main!" — "Cross-jack yards all ready, 
sir!" — "Lay down, all hands but one on each yard!" The yard-arm 
and bunt gaskets were cast off; and each sail hung by the jigger, 
with one man standing by the tie to let it go. At the same moment 
that we sprang aloft, a dozen hands sprang into the rigging of the 
California, and in an instant were all over her yards; and her sails, 
too, were ready to be dropped at the word. In the mean time our 
bow gun had been loaded and run out, and its discharge was to be 
the signal for dropping sails. A cloud of smoke came out of our 
bows; the echoes of the gun rattled our farewell among the hills 
of California; and the two ships were covered, from head to foot, 
with their white canvas. For a few minutes, all was uproar and 
apparent confusion: men flying about like monkeys in the rigging; 
ropes and blocks flying; orders given and answered, and the con- 
fused noises of men singing out at the ropes. The top-sails came 
to the mast-heads with "Cheerily, men!" and, in a few minutes, 
every sail was set; for the wind was light. The head sails were 
backed, the windlass came round "slip — slap" to the cry of the 
sailors; — "Hove short, sir," said the mate; — "Up with him!" — "Aye, 
aye, sir." — A few hearty and long heaves, and the anchor showed its 
head. "Hook cat!" — ^The fall was stretched along the decks; all 
hands laid hold;— "Hurrah, for the last time," said the mate; and 
the anchor came to the cat-head to the tune of "Time for us to go," 
with a loud chorus. Everything was done quick, as though it were 
for the last time. The head yards were filled away, and our ship 
began to move through the water on her homeward-bound course. 
The California had got under weigh at the same moment; and 
we sailed down the narrow bay abreast and were just off the mouth, 
and finding ourselves gradually shooting ahead of her, were on the 
point of giving her three parting cheers, when, suddenly, we found 
ourselves stopped short, and the California ranging fast ahead of 
us. A bar stretches across the mouth of the harbor, with water 
enough to float common vessels, but, being low in the water, and 
having kept well to leeward, as we were bound to the southward, 



274 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

we had stuck fast, while the CaHfornia, being Hght, had floated over. 

We kept all sail on, in the hope of forcing over, but failing in 
this, we hove aback, and lay waiting for the tide, which was on 
the flood, to take us back into the channel. This was somewhat of 
a damper to us, and the captain looked not a little mortified and 
vexed. "This is the same place where the Rosa got ashore," observed 
the redheaded second mate, most mal-a-propos. A malediction on 
the Rosa, and him too, was all the answer he got, and he slunk off 
to leeward. In a few minutes, the force of the wind and the rising 
of the tide backed us into the stream, and we were on our way to 
our old anchoring-place, the tide setting swiftly up, and the ship 
barely manageable, in the light breeze. We came-to, in our old 
berth, opposite the hide-house, whose inmates were not a little 
surprised to see us return. We felt as though we were tied to 
California; and some of the crew swore that they never should get 
clear of the bloody coast. 

In about half an hour, which was near high water, the order was 
given to man the windlass, and again the anchor was catted; but 
not a word was said about the last time. The California had come 
back on finding that we had returned, and was hove-to, waiting 
for us, off the point. This time we passed the bar safely, and were 
soon up with the California, who filled away, and kept us company. 
She seemed desirous of a trial of speed, and our captain accepted the 
challenge, although we were loaded down to the bolts of our chain 
plates, as deep as a sand-barge, and bound so taught with our cargo 
that we were no more fit for a race than a man in fetters; — while 
our antagonist was in her best trim. Being clear of the point, the 
breeze became stiff, and the royal masts bent under our sails, but 
we would not take them in until we saw three boys spring aloft 
into the rigging of the California; when they were all furled at 
once, but with orders to stay aloft at the top-gallant mastheads, 
and loose them again at the word. It was my duty to furl the fore 
royal; and while standing by to loose it again, I had a fine view of 
the scene. From where I stood, the two vessels seemed nothing but 
spars and sails, while their narrow decks, far below, slanting over 
by the force of the wind aloft, appeared hardly capable of supporting 
the great fabrics raised upon them. The California was to windward 
of us, and had every advantage; yet, while the breeze was stiff, we 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 275 

held our own. As soon as it began to slacken, she ranged a little 
ahead, and the order was given to loose the royals. In an instant the 
gaskets were off and the bunt dropped. "Sheet home the fore 
royal! — Weather sheet's home!" — "Hoist away, sir!" is bawled from 
aloft. "Overhaul your clew-lines!" shouts the mate. "Aye, aye, 
sir, all clear!" — "Taught leech! belay! Well the lee brace; haul 
taught to windward" — and the royals are set. These brought us 
up again; but the wind continuing light, the California set hers, 
and it was soon evident that she was walking away from us. Our 
captain then hailed, and said that he should keep off to his course; 
adding — "She isn't the Alert now. If I had her in your trim, she 
would have been out of sight by this time." This was good-naturedly 
answered from the California, and she braced sharp up, and stood 
close upon the wind up the coast; while we squared away our 
yards, and stood before the wind to the south-south-west. The 
California's crew manned her weather rigging, waved their hats in 
the air, and gave up three hearty cheers, which we answered as 
heartily, and the customary single cheer came back to us from over 
the water. She stood on her way, doomed to eighteen months' or 
two years' hard service upon that hated coast, while we were making 
our way to our home, to which every hour and every mile was 
bringing us nearer. 

As soon as we parted company with the California, all hands were 
sent aloft to set the studding-sails. Booms were rigged out, tacks 
and halyards rove, sail after sail packed upon her, until every 
available inch of canvas was spread, that we might not lose a breath 
of the fair wind. We could now see how much she was cramped 
and deadened by her cargo; for with a good breeze on her quarter, 
and every stitch of canvas spread, we could not get more than six 
knots out of her. She had no more life in her than if she were 
water-logged. The log was hove several times; but she was doing 
her best. We had hardly patience with her, but the older sailors 
said — "Stand by! you'll see her work herself loose in a week or two, 
and then she'll walk up to Cape Horn like a race-horse." 

When all sail had been set, and the decks cleared up, the Cali- 
fornia was a speck in the horizon, and the coast lay like a low cloud 
along the north-east. At sunset they were both out of sight, and we 
were once more upon the ocean where sky and water meet. 



CHAPTER XXX 
Beginning the Long Return Voyage — A Scare 

AT EIGHT o'clock all hands were called aft, and the watches 
ZJm set for the voyage. Some changes were made; but I was 
X JL glad to find myself still in the larboard watch. Our crew 
was somewhat diminished; for a man and a boy had gone in the 
Pilgrim; another was second mate of the Ayacucho; and a third, 
the oldest man of the crew, had broken down under the hard work 
and constant exposure on the coast, and, having had a stroke of 
the palsy, was left behind at the hide-house under the charge of 
Captain Arthur. The poor fellow wished very much to come home 
in the ship; and he ought to have been brought home in her. But 
a live dog is better than a dead lion, and a sick sailor belongs to 
nobody's mess; so he was sent ashore with the rest of the lumber, 
which was only in the way. By these diminutions, we were short- 
handed for a voyage round Cape Horn in the dead of winter. Be- 
sides S and myself, there were only five in the forecastle; who, 

together with four boys in the steerage, the sailmaker, carpenter, 
etc., composed the whole crew. In addition to this, we were only 
three or four days out, when the sailmaker, who was the oldest 
and best seaman on board, was taken with the palsy, and was 
useless for the rest of the voyage. The constant wading in the 
water, in all weathers, to take off hides, together with the other 
labors, is too much for old men, and for any who have not good 
constitutions. Beside these two men of ours, the second officer of 
the California and the carpenter of the Pilgrim broke down under 
the work, and the latter died at Santa Barbara. The young man, 
too, who came out with us from Boston in the Pilgrim, had to be 
taken from his berth before the mast and made clerk, on account 
of a fit of rheumatism which attacked him soon after he came upon 
the coast. By the loss of the sailmaker, our watch was reduced to 
five, of whom two were boys, who never steered but in fine weather, 

276 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 277 

SO that the other two and myself had to stand at the wheel four hours 
apiece out of every twenty-four; and the other watch had only four 
helmsmen. "Never mind — we're homeward bound ! " was the answer 
to everything; and we should not have minded this, were it not for 
the thought that we should be off Cape Horn in the very dead of 
winter. It was now the first part of May; and two months would 
bring us off the cape in July, which is the worst month in the year 
there; when the sun rises at nine and sets at three, giving eighteen 
hours night, and there is snow and rain, gales and high seas, in 
abundance. 

The prospect of meeting this in a ship half manned, and loaded 
so deep that every heavy sea must wash her fore and aft, was by 
no means pleasant. The Alert, in her passage out, doubled the Cape 
in the month of February, which is midsummer; and we came 
round in the Pilgrim in the latter part of October, which we thought 
was bad enough. There was only one of our crew who had been 
off there in the winter, and that was in a whaleship, much lighter 
and higher than our ship; yet he said they had man-killing weather 
for twenty days without intermission, and their decks were swept 
twice, and they were all glad enough to see the last of it. The 
Brandywine frigate, also, in her passage round, had sixty days off 
the Cape, and lost several boats by the heavy sea. All this was for 
our comfort; yet pass it we must; and all hands agreed to make 
the best of it. 

During our watches below we overhauled our clothes, and made 
and mended everything for bad weather. Each of us had made for 
himself a suit of oil-cloth or tarpaulin, and these we got out, and 
gave thorough coatings of oil or tar, and hung upon the stays to dry. 
Our stout boots, too, we covered over with a thick mixture of melted 
grease and tar, and hung out to dry. Thus we took advantage of 
the warm sun and fine weather of the Pacific to prepare for its 
other face. In the forenoon watches below, our forecastle looked 
like the workshop of what a sailor is, — a Jack at all trades. Thick 
stockings and drawers were darned and patched; mittens dragged 
from the bottom of the chest and mended; comforters made for the 
neck and ears; old flannel shirts cut up to line monkey jackets; south- 
westers lined with flannel, and a pot of paint smuggled forward to 



278 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

give them a coat on the outside; and everything turned to hand; 
so that, although two years had left us but a scanty wardrobe, yet 
the economy and invention which necessity teaches a sailor, soon 
put each of us in pretty good trim for bad weather, even before we 
had seen the last of the fine. Even the cobbler's art was not out of 
place. Several old shoes were very decently repaired, and with waxed 
ends, an awl, and the top of an old boot, I made me quite a 
respectable sheath for my knife. 

There was one difficulty, however, which nothing that we could 
do would remedy; and that was the leaking of the forecastle, which 
made it very uncomfortable in bad weather, and rendered half of 
the berths tenantless. The tightest ships, in a long voyage, from 
the constant strain which is upon the bowsprit, will leak, more or 
less, round the heel of the bowsprit, and the bitts, which come down 
into the forecastle; but, in addition to this, we had an unaccountable 
leak on the starboard bow, near the cat-head, which drove us from 
the forward berths on that side, and, indeed, when she was on the 
starboard tack, from all the forward berths. One of the after berths, 
too, leaked in very bad weather; so that in a ship which was in 
other respects as tight as a bottle, and brought her cargo to Boston 
perfectly dry, we had, after every effort made to prevent it, in the 
way of caulking and leading, a forecastle with only three dry berths 
for seven of us. However, as there is never but one watch below 
at a time, by 'turning in and out,' we did pretty well. And there 
being, in our watch, but three of us who lived forward, we gen- 
erally had a dry berth apiece in bad weather.^ 

All this, however, was but anticipation. We were still in fine 
weather in the North Pacific, running down the north-east trades, 
which we took on the second day after leaving San Diego. 

Sunday, May i$th, one week out, we were in latitude 14° 56' N., 
long. 116° 14' W., having gone, by reckoning, over thirteen hundred 
miles in seven days. In fact, ever since leaving San Diego, we had 

' On removing the cat-head, after the ship arrived at Boston, it was found that 
there were two holes under it which had been bored for the purpose of driving tree- 
nails, and which, accidentally, had not been plugged up when the cat-head was 
placed over them. This was sufScient to account for the leak, and for our not having 
been able to discover and stop it. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 279 

had a fair wind, and as much as we wanted of it. For seven days, our 
lower and topmast studding-sails were set all the time, and our 
royals and top-gallant studding-sails, whenever she could stagger 
under them. Indeed, the captain had shown, from the moment we 
got to sea, that he was to have no boy's play, but that the ship had 
got to carry all she could, and that he was going to make up, by 
"cracking on" to her, what she wanted in lightness. In this way, 
we frequently made three degrees of latitude, besides something in 
longitude, in the course of twenty-four hours. — Our days were 
spent in the usual ship's work. The rigging which had become 
slack from being long in port was to be set up; breast backstays 
got up; studding-sail booms rigged upon the main yard; and the 
royal studding-sails got ready for the light trades; ring-tail set; 
and new rigging fitted and sails got ready for Cape Horn. For, 
with a ship's gear, as well as a sailor's wardrobe, fine weather must 
be improved to get ready for the bad to come. Our forenoon watch 
below, as I have said, was given to our own work, and our night 
watches were spent in the usual manner: — a tricl{ at the wheel, a 
look-out on the forecastle, a nap on a coil of rigging under the lee 
of the rail; a yarn round the windlass-end; or, as was generally my 
way, a solitary walk fore and aft, in the weather waist, between 
the windlass-end and the main tack. Every wave that she threw 
aside brought us nearer home, and every day's observation at noon 
showed a progress which, if it continued, would in less than five 
months, take us into Boston Bay. This is the pleasure of life at sea, 
— fine weather, day after day, without interruption, — fair wind, 
and a plenty of it, — and homeward bound. Every one was in good 
humor; things went right; and all was done with a will. At the 
dog watch, all hands came on deck, and stood round the weather 
side of the forecastle, or sat upon the windlass, and sung sea songs, 
and those ballads of pirates and highwaymen, which sailors delight 
in. Home, too, and what we should do when we got there, and 
when and how we should arrive, was no infrequent topic. Every 
night, after the kids and pots were put away, and we had lighted 
our pipes and cigars at the galley, and gathered about the windlass, 
the first question was, — 



28o RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

"Well, Tom, what was the latitude to-day?" 

"Why fourteen, north, and she has been going seven knots ever 
since." 

"Well, this will bring us up to the line in five days." 

"Yes, but these trades won't last twenty-four hours longer," says 
an old salt, pointing with the sharp of his hand to leeward, — "I 
know that by the look of the clouds." 

Then came all manner of calculations and conjectures as to the 
continuance of the wind, the weather under the line, the south-east 
trades, etc., and rough guesses as to the time the ship would be up 
with the Horn; and some, more venturous, gave her so many days 
to Boston light, and offered to bet that she would not exceed it. 

"You'd better wait till you get round Cape Horn," says an old 
croaker. 

"Yes," says another, "you may see Boston, but you've got to 
'smell heir before that good day." 

Rumors also of what had been said in the cabin, as usual, found 
their way forward. The steward had heard the captain say some- 
thing about the straits of Magellan, and the man at the wheel fancied 
he had heard him tell the "passenger" that, if he found the wind 
ahead and the weather very bad off the Cape, he should stick her 
off for New Holland, and come home round the Cape of Good 
Hope. 

This passenger — the first and only one we had had, except to go 
from port to port, on the coast, was no one else than a gentleman 
whom I had known in my better days; and the last person I should 
have expected to have seen on the coast of California — Professor 

N , of Cambridge. I had left him quietly seated in the chair of 

Botany and Ornithology, in Harvard University; and the next I 
saw of him, was strolling about San Diego beach, in a sailor's pea- 
jacket, with a wide straw hat, and barefooted, with his trowsers 
rolled up to his knees, picking up stones and shells. He had travelled 
overland to the North-west Coast, and come down in a small vessel 
to Monterey. There he learned that there was a ship at the leeward, 
about to sail for Boston; and, taking passage in the Pilgrim, which 
was then at Monterey, he came slowly down, visiting the inter- 
mediate ports, and examining the trees, plants, earths, birds, etc., 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 281 

and joined us at San Diego shortly before we sailed. The second 
mate of the Pilgrim told me that they had an old gentleman on 
board who knew me, and came from the college that I had been in. 
He could not recollect his name, but said he was a "sort of an oldish 
man," with white hair, and spent all his time in the bush, and along 
the beach, picking up flowers and shells, and such truck, and had a 
dozen boxes and barrels, full of them. I thought over everybody 
who would be likely to be there, but could fix upon no one; when, 
the next day, just as we were about to shove olT from the beach, he 
came down to the boat, in the rig I have described, with his shoes 
in his hand, and his pockets full of specimens. I knew him at 
once, though I should not have been more surprised to have seen 
the Old South steeple shoot up from the hide-house. He probably 
had no less difficulty in recognizing me. As we left home about 
the same time, we had nothing to tell one another; and, owing to 
our different situations on board, I saw but little of him on the 
passage home. Sometimes, when I was at the wheel of a calm night, 
and the steering required no attention, and the officer of the watch 
was forward, he would come aft and hold a short yarn with me; 
but this was against the rules of the ship, as is, in fact, all intercourse 
between passengers and the crew. I was often amused to see the 
sailors puzzled to know what to make of him, and to hear their 
conjectures about him and his business. They were as much puzzled 
as our old sailmaker was with the captain's instruments in the cabin. 
He said there were three : — the f^ro-nometer, the rAr<?-nometer, and 
the the-nometer. (Chronometer, barometer, and thermometer.) The 
Pilgrim's crew christened Mr. N. "Old Curious," from his zeal for 
curiosities, and some of them said that he was crazy, and that his 
friends let him go about and amuse himself in this way. Why else 
a rich man (sailors call every man rich who does not work with his 
hands, and wears a long coat and cravat) should leave a Christian 
country, and come to such a place as California, to pick up shells 
and stones, they could not understand. One of them, however, an 
old salt, who had seen something more of the world ashore, set all 
to rights, as he thought, — "Oh, 'vast there! — ^You don't know any- 
thing about them craft. I've seen them colleges, and know the 
ropes. They keep all such things for cur'osities, and study 'em, and 



282 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

have men a' purpose to go and get 'em. This old chap knows what 
he's about. He a'n't the child you take him for. He'll carry all 
these things to the college, and if they are better than any that 
they have had before, he'll be head of the college. Then, by-and-by, 
somebody else will go after some more, and if they beat him, he'll 
have to go again, or else give up his berth. That's the way they do 
it. This old covey knows the ropes. He has worked a traverse 
over 'em, and come 'way out here, where nobody's ever been afore, 
and where they'll never think of coming." This explanation satis- 
fied Jack; and as it raised Mr. N.'s credit for capacity, and was 
near enough to the truth for common purposes, I did not disturb it. 
With the exception of Mr. N., we had no one on board but the 
regular ship's company, and the live stock. Upon this, we had made 
a considerable inroad. We killed one of the bullocks every four 
days, so that they did not last us up to the line. We, or, rather, they, 
then began upon the sheep and the poultry, for these never come 
into Jack's mess.' The pigs were left for the latter part of the voyage, 
for they are sailors, and can stand all weathers. We had an old sow 
on board, the mother of a numerous progeny, who had been twice 
round the Cape of Good Hope, and once round Cape Horn. The 
last time going round, was very nearly her death. We heard her 
squealing and moaning one dark night, after it had been snowing 
and hailing for several hours, and getting into the sty, we found 
her nearly frozen to death. We got some straw, an old sail, and 
other things, and wrapped her up in a corner of the sty, where she 
staid until we got into fine weather again. 

' The customs as to the allowance of "grub" are very nearly the same in all 
American merchantmen. Whenever a pig is killed, the sailors have one mess from 
it. The rest goes to the cabin. The smaller live stock, poultry, etc., they never taste. 
And, indeed, they do not complain of this, for it would take a great deal to supply 
them with a good meal, and without the accompaniments, (which could hardly be 
furnished to them,) it would not be much better than salt beef. But even as to the 
salt beef, they are scarcely dealt fairly with; for whenever a barrel is opened, before 
any of the beef is put into the harness-cask, the steward comes up, and picks it all 
over, and takes out the best pieces, (those that have any fat in them) for the cabin. 
This was done in both the vessels I was in, and the men said that it was usual in 
other vessels. Indeed, it is made no secret, but some of the crew are usually called 
to help in assorting and putting away the pieces. By this arrangement the hard, dry 
pieces, which the sailors call "old horse," come to their share. 

There is a singular piece of rhyme, traditional among sailors, which they say over 
such pieces of beef. I do not know that it ever appeared in print before. When seated 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 283 

Wednesday, May i8th. Lat. 9° 54' N., long. 113° 17' W. The 
north-east trades had now left us, and we had the usual variable 
winds, which prevail near the line, together with some rain. So 
long as we were in these latitudes, we had but little rest in our 
watch on deck at night, for, as the winds were light and variable, 
and we could not lose a breath, we were all the watch bracing the 
yards, and taking in and making sail, and "humbugging" with our 
flying kites. A little puff of wind on the larboard quarter, and then 
— "larboard fore braces!" and studding-booms were rigged out, 
studding-sails set alow and aloft, the yards trimmed, and jibs and 
spanker in; when it would come as calm as a duck-pond, and the 
man at the wheel stand with the palm of his hand up, feeling for 
the wind. "Keep her off a little!" "All aback forward, sir!" cries a 
man from the forecastle. Down go the braces again; in come the 
studding-sails, all in a mess, which half an hour won't set right; 
yards braced sharp up; and she's on the starboard tack, close hauled. 
The studding-sails must now be cleared away, and set up in the 
tops, and on the booms. By the time this is done, and you are 
looking out for a soft plank for a nap, — "Lay aft here, and square 
in the head yards!" and the studding-sails are all set again on the 
starboard side. So it goes until it is eight bells, — call the watch, — 
heave the log, — relieve the wheel, and go below the larboard watch. 

Sunday, May 22d. Lat. 5° 14' N., long. 166° 45' W. We were 
now a fortnight out, and within five degrees of the line, to which 

round the kid, if a particularly bad piece is found, one of them takes it up, and 
addressing it, repeats these lines: 

"Old horse! old horse! what brought you here?" 
— "From Sacarap to Pordand pier 
I've carted stone this many a year: 
Till, killed by blows and sore abuse. 
They salted me down for sailors' use. 
The sailors they do me despise: 
They turn me over and damn my eyes; 
Cut off my meat, and pick my bones. 
And pitch the rest to Davy Jones." 

There is a story current among seamen, that a beef -dealer was convicted, at Boston, 
of having sold old horse for ship's stores, instead of beef, and had been sentenced to 
be confined in jail, until he should eat the whole of it; and that he is now lying ia 
Boston jail. I have heard this story often, on board other vessels beside those of our 
own nation. It is very generally believed, and is always highly conmiended, as a 
fair instance of retaliatory justice. 



284 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

two days of good breeze would take us; but we had, for the most part, 
what sailors call "an Irishman's hurricane, — right up and down." 
This day it rained nearly all day, and being Sunday, and nothing to 
do, we stopped up the scuppers and filled the decks with rain water, 
and bringing all our clothes on deck, had a grand wash, fore and 
aft. When this was through, we stripped to our drawers, and 
taking pieces of soap and strips of canvas for towels, we turned-to 
and soaped, washed, and scrubbed one another down, to get off, as 
we said, the California dust; for the common wash in salt water, 
which is all Jack can get, being on an allowance of fresh, had little 
efficacy, and was more for taste than utility. The captain was below 
all the afternoon, and we had something nearer to a Saturnalia than 
anything we had yet seen; for the mate came into the scuppers, 
with a couple of boys to scrub him, and got into a battle with 
them in heaving water. By unplugging the holes, we let the soap- 
suds off the decks, and in a short time had a new supply of rain 
water, in which we had a grand rinsing. It was surprising to see 
how much soap and fresh water did for the complexions of many 
of us; how much of what we supposed to be tan and sea-blacking, 
we got rid of. The next day, the sun rising clear, the ship was 
covered, fore and aft, with clothes of all sorts, hanging out to dry. 

As we approached the line, the wind became more easterly, and 
the weather clearer, and in twenty days from San Diego, — 

Saturday, May 28th, at about three P. M., with a fine breeze from 
the east-south-east, we crossed the equator. In twenty-four hours 
after crossing the line, which was very unusual, we took the regular 
south-east trades. These winds come a little from the eastward of 
south-east, and, with us, they blew directly from the east-south-east, 
which was fortunate for us, for our course was south-by-west, and 
we could thus go one point free. The yards were braced so that 
every sail drew, from the spanker to the flying-jib; and the upper 
yards being squared in a little, the fore and main top-gallant 
studding-sails were set, and just drew handsomely. For twelve 
days this breeze blew steadily, not varying a point, and just so fresh 
that we could carry our royals; and, during the whole time, we 
hardly started a brace. Such progress did we make, that at the end 
of seven days from the time we took the breeze, on 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 285 

Sunday, June ^th, we were in lat. 19° 29' S., and long, 118° 01' W., 
having made twelve hundred miles in seven days, very nearly upon 
a taught bowline. Our good ship was getting to be herself again, 
had increased her rate o£ sailing more than one-third since leaving 
San Diego. The crew ceased complaining of her, and the officers 
hove the log every two hours with evident satisfaction. This was 
glorious sailing. A steady breeze; the light trade- wind clouds over 
our heads; the incomparable temperature of the Pacific, — neither 
hot nor cold; a clear sun every day, and clear moon and stars each 
night; and new constellations rising in the south, and the familiar 
ones sinking in the north, as we went on our course, — "stemming 
nightly toward the pole." Already we had sunk the north star and 
the Great Bear in the northern horizon, and all hands looked out 
sharp to the southward for the Magellan Clouds, which, each 
succeeding night, we expected to make. "The next time we see 
the north star," said one, "we shall be standing to the northward, 
the other side of the Horn." This was true enough, and no doubt 
it would be a welcome sight; for sailors say that in coming home 
from round Cape Horn, and the Cape of Good Hope, the north star 
is the first land you make. 

These trades were the same that, in the passage out in the Pilgrim, 
lasted nearly all the way from Juan Fernandez to the line; blowing 
steadily on our starboard quarter for three weeks, without our 
starting a brace, or even brailing down the skysails. Though we 
had now the same wind, and were in the same latitude with the 
Pilgrim on her passage out, yet we were nearly twelve hundred 
miles to the westward of her course; for the captain, depending 
upon the strong south-west winds which prevail in high southern 
latitudes during the winter months, took the full advantage of the 
trades, and stood well to the westward, so far that we passed 
within about two hundred miles of Ducie's Island. 

It was this weather and sailing that brought to my mind a little 
incident that occurred on board the Pilgrim, while we were in the 
same latitude. We were going along at a great rate, dead before the 
wind, with studding-sails out on both sides, alow and aloft, on a 
dark night, just after midnight, and everything was as still as the 
grave, except the washing of the water by the vessel's side; for, 



286 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

being before the wind, with a smooth sea, the little brig, covered 
with canvas, was doing great business, with very Httle noise. The 
other watch was below, and all our watch, except myself and the 
man at the wheel, were asleep under the lee of the boat. The second 
mate, who came out before the mast, and was always very thic\ 
with me, had been holding a yarn with me, and just gone aft to 
his place on the quarter-deck, and I had resumed my usual walk 
to and from the windlass-end, when, suddenly, we heard a loud 
scream coming from ahead, apparently directly from under the 
bows. The darkness, and complete stillness of the night, and the 
solitude of the ocean, gave to the sound a dreadful and almost 
supernatural effect. I stood perfectly still, and my heart beat quick. 
The sound woke up the rest of the watch, who stood looking at one 
another. "What, in the name of God, is that?" said the second mate, 
coming slowly forward. The first thought I had was, that it might 
be a boat, with the crew of some wrecked vessel, or perhaps the 
boat of some whaleship, out over night, and we had run them down 
in the darkness. Another scream, but less loud than the first. This 
started us, and we ran forward, and looked over the bows, and over 
the sides, to leeward, but nothing was to be seen or heard. What 
was to be done. Call the captain, and heave the ship aback.? Just 
at this moment, in crossing the forecastle, one of the men saw a 
light below, and looking down the scuttle, saw the watch all out 
of their berths, and afoul of one poor fellow, dragging him out 
of his berth, and shaking him, to wake him out of a nightmare. 
They had been waked out of their sleep, and as much alarmed at 
the scream as we were, and were hesitating whether to come on 
deck, when the second sound, coming directly from one of the 
berths, revealed the cause of the alarm. The fellow got a good 
shaking for the trouble he had given. We made a joke of the 
matter and we could well laugh, for our minds were not a litde 
relieved by its ridiculous termination. 

We were now close upon the southern tropical line, and, with 
so fine a breeze, were daily leaving the sun behind us, and drawing 
nearer to Cape Horn, for which it behoved us to make every 
preparation. Our rigging was all examined and overhauled, and 
mended, or replaced with new, where it was necessary: new and 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 287 

Strong bobstays fitted in the place of the chain ones, which were 
worn out; the spritsail yard and martingale guys and back-ropes 
set well taught; bran new fore and main braces rove; top-gallant 
sheets, and wheel-ropes, made of green hide, laid up in the form of 
rope, were stretched and fitted; and new top-sail clewlines, etc., 
rove; new fore-topmast back-stays fitted; and other preparations 
made, in good season, that the ropes might have time to stretch 
and become limber before we got into cold weather. 

Sunday, June 12th. Lat. 26° 04' S., 116° 31' W. We had now 
lost the regular trades, and had the winds variable, principally from 
the westward, and kept on, in a southerly course, sailing very nearly 
upon a meridian, and at the end of the week, 

Sunday, June i^th, were in lat. 34° 15' S., and long. 116° 38' W, 



CHAPTER XXXI 

Bad Prospects — First Touch of Cape Horn — Icebergs — Temper- 
ance Ships — Lying-up — Ice — ^Difficulty on Board — 
Change of Course — Straits of Magellan 

THERE now began to be a decided change in the appearance 
of things. The days became shorter and shorter; the sun 
running lower in its course each day, and giving less and 
less heat; and the nights so cold as to prevent our sleeping on deck; 
the Magellan Clouds in sight, o£ a clear night; the skies looking 
cold and angry; and, at times, a long, heavy, ugly sea, setting in 
from the southward, told us what we were coming to. Still, how- 
ever, we had a fine, strong breeze, and kept on our way, under as 
much sail as our ship would bear. Toward the middle of the week, 
the wind hauled to the southward, which brought us upon a taught 
bowline, made the ship meet, nearly head on, the heavy swell 
which rolled from that direction; and there was something not at 
all encouraging in the manner in which she met it. Being so deep 
and heavy, she wanted the buoyancy which should have carried her 
over the seas, and she dropped heavily into them, the water washing 
over the decks; and every now and then, when an unusually large 
sea met her fairly upon the bows, she struck it with a sound as 
dead and heavy as that with which a sledge-hammer falls upon the 
pile, and took the whole of it in upon the forecastle, and rising, 
carried it aft in the scuppers, washing the rigging off the pins, and 
carrying along with it everything which was loose on deck. She 
had been acting in this way all of our forenoon watch below; as 
we could tell by the washing of the water over our heads, and the 
heavy breaking of the seas against her bows, (with a sound as 
though she were striking against a rock,) only the thickness of the 
plank from our heads, as we lay in our berths, which are directly 
against the bows. At eight bells, the watch was called, and we came 

288 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 289 

on deck, one hand going aft to take the wheel, and another going 
to the galley to get the grub for dinner. I stood on the forecastle, 
looking at the seas, which were rolling high, as far as the eye could 
reach, their tops white with foam, and the body of them of a deep 
indigo blue, reflecting the bright rays of the sun. Our ship rose 
slowly over a few of the largest of them, until one immense fellow 
came rolling on, threatening to cover her, and which I was sailor 
enough to know, by "the feeling of her" under my feet, she would 
not rise over. I sprang upon the knight-heads, and seizing hold of 
the fore-stay with my hands, drew myself upon it. My feet were 
just off the stanchion, when she struck fairly into the middle of the 
sea, and it washed her fore and aft, burying her in the water. As 
soon as she rose out of it, I looked aft, and everything forward of 
the main-mast, except the long-boat, which was griped and double- 
lashed down to the ring-bolts, was swept off clear. The galley, the 
pig-sty, the hen-coop, and a large sheep-pen which had been built 
upon the forehatch, were all gone, in the twinkling of an eye — 
leaving the deck as clean as a chin new-reaped — and not a stick left, 
to show where they had stood. In the scuppers lay the galley, bottom 
up, and a few boards floating about, the wreck of the sheep-pen, — 
and half a dozen miserable sheep floating among them, wet through, 
and not a little frightened at the sudden change that had come upon 
them. As soon as the sea had washed by, all hands sprung out of 
the forecastle to see what had become of the ship and in a few mo- 
ments the cook and old Bill crawled out from under the galley, 
where they had been lying in the water, nearly smothered, with the 
galley over them. Fortunately, it rested against the bulwarks, or 
it would have broken some of their bones. When the water ran 
off, we picked the sheep up, and put them in the long-boat, got the 
galley back in its place, and set things a little to rights; but, had not 
our ship had uncommonly high bulwarks and rail, everything must 
have been washed overboard, not excepting Old Bill and the cook. 
Bill had been standing at the galley-door, with the kid of beef in 
his hand for the forecastle mess, when, away he went, kid, beef, and 
all. He held on to the kid till the last, like a good fellow, but the 
beef was gone, and when the water had run off, we saw it lying 



290 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

high and dry, hke a rock at low tide — nothing could hurt that. We 
took the loss o£ our beef very easily, consoling ourselves with the 
recollection that the cabin had more to lose than we; and chuckled 
not a little at seeing the remains of the chicken-pie and pan-cakes 
floating in the scuppers. "This will never do!" was what some said, 
and every one felt. Here we were, not yet within a thousand miles 
of the latitude of Cape Horn, and our decks swept by a sea not one 
half so high as we must expect to find there. Some blamed the 
captain for loading his ship so deep, when he knew what he must 
expect; while others said that the wind was always southwest, off 
the Cape, in the winter; and that, running before it, we should not 
mind the seas so much. When we got down into the forecastle. Old 
Bill, who was somewhat of a croaker, — having met with a great 
many accidents at sea — said that if that was the way she was going 
to act, we might as well make our wills, and balance the books at 
once, and put on a clean shirt. " 'Vast there, you bloody old owl! 
You're always hanging out blue lights! You're frightened by the 
ducking you got in the scuppers, and can't take a joke! What's the 
use in being always on the look-out for Davy Jones?" "Stand by!" 
says another, "and we'll get an afternoon watch below, by this 
scrape;" but in this they were disappointed, for at two bells, all 
hands were called and set to work, getting lashings upon everything 
on deck; and the captain talked of sending down the long top- 
gallant masts; but, as the sea went down toward night, and the wind 
hauled abeam, we left them standing, and set the studding-sails. 

The next day, all hands were turned-to upon unbending the old 
sails, and getting up the new ones; for a ship, unlike people on 
shore, puts on her best suit in bad weather. The old sails were sent 
down, and three new topsails, and new fore and main courses, jib, 
and fore-topmast staysail, which were made on the coast, and never 
had been used, were bent, with a complete set of new earings, ro- 
bands and reef -points; and reef-tackles were rove to the courses, and 
spilling-lines to the top-sails. These, with new braces and clew-lines, 
fore and aft, gave us a good suit of running rigging. 

The wind continued westerly, and the weather and sea less rough 
since the day on which we shipped the heavy sea, and we were 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 29I 

making great progress under studding-sails, with our light sails all 
set, keeping a little to the eastward of south; for the captain, de- 
pending upon westerly winds off the Cape, had kept so far to the 
westward, that though we were within about five hundred miles 
of the latitude of Cape Horn, we were nearly seventeen hundred 
miles to the westward of it. Through the rest of the week, we 
continued on with a fair wind, gradually, as we got more to the 
southward, keeping a more easterly course, and bringing the wind 
on our larboard quarter, until — 

Sunday, June 26th, when, having a fine, clear day, the captain 
got a lunar observation, as well as his meridian altitude, which made 
us in lat. 47° 50' S., long. 113° 49' W.; Cape Horn bearing, accord- 
ing to my calculation, E. S. E. 1/2 E., and distant eighteen hundred 
miles. 

Monday, June 2yth. During the first part of this day, the wind 
continued fair, and, as we were going before it, it did not feel very 
cold, so that we kept at work on deck, in our common clothes and 
round jackets. Our watch had an afternoon watch below, for the 
first time since leaving San Diego, and having inquired of the third 
mate what the latitude was at noon, and made our usual guesses 
as to the time she would need, to be up with the Horn, we turned- 
in, for a nap. We were sleeping away "at the rates of knots," when 
three knocks on the scuttle, and "All hands ahoy!" started us from 
our berths. What could be the matter? It did not appear to be 
blowing hard, and looking up through the scuttle, we could see 
that it was a clear day, overhead; yet the watch were taking in sail. 
We thought there must be a sail in sight, and that we were about 
to heave-to and speak her; and were just congratulating ourselves 
upon it — for we had seen neither sail nor land since we had left 
port — ^when we heard the mate's voice on deck, (he turned-in "all 
standing," and was always on deck the moment he was called,) 
singing out to the men who were taking in the studding-sails, and 
asking where his watch were. We did not wait for a second call, 
but tumbled up the ladder; and there, on the starboard bow, was a 
bank of mist, covering sea and sky, and driving directly for us. I 
had seen the same before, in my passage round in the Pilgrim, and 



292 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

knew what it meant, and that there was no time to be lost. We had 
nothing on but thin clothes, yet there was not a moment to spare, 
and at it we went. 

The boys of the other watch were in the tops, taking in the top- 
gallant studding-sails, and the lower and topmast studding-sails 
were coming down by the run. It was nothing but "haul down and 
clew up," until we got all the studding-sails in, and the royals, 
flying-jib, and mizen top-gallant sail furled, and the ship kept off 
a little, to take the squall. The fore and main top-gallant sails were 
still on her, for the "old man" did not mean to be frightened in 
broad daylight, and was determined to carry sail till the last minute. 
We all stood waiting for its coming, when the first blast showed us 
that it was not be trifled with. Rain, sleet, snow, and wind, enough 
to take our breath from us, and make the toughest turn his back 
to windward! The ship lay nearly over on her beam-ends; the spars 
and rigging snapped and cracked; and her top-gallant masts bent 
like whip-sticks. "Clew up the fore and main top-gallant sails!" 
shouted the captain, and all hands sprang to the clewlines. The 
decks were standing nearly at an angle of forty-five degrees, and 
the ship going like a mad steed through the water, the whole for- 
ward part of her in a smother of foam. The halyards were let go 
and the yard clewed down, and the sheets started, and in a few 
minutes the sails smothered and kept in by clewlines and buntlines. 
— "Furl 'em, sir?" asked the mate. — "Let go the topsail halyards, 
fore and aft!" shouted the captain, in answer, at the top of his voice. 
Down came the topsail yards, the reef-tackles were manned and 
hauled out, and we climbed up to windward, and sprang into the 
weather rigging. The violence of the wind, and the hail and sleet, 
driving nearly horizontally across the ocean, seemed actually to pin 
us down to the rigging. It was hard work making head against 
them. One after another, we got out upon the yards. And here we 
had work to do; for our new sails, which had hardly been bent long 
enough to get the starch out of them, were as stiff as boards, and 
the new earings and reef-points, stiffened with the sleet, knotted 
like pieces of iron wire. Having only our round jackets and straw 
hats on, we were soon wet through, and it was every moment grow- 
ing colder. Our hands were soon stiffened and numbed, which. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 293 

added to the stiffness o£ everything else, kept us a good while on 
the yard. After we had got the sail hauled upon the yard, we had 
to wait a long time for the weather earing to be passed; but there 
was no fault to be found, for French John was at the earing, and 
a better sailor never laid out on a yard; so we leaned over the yard, 
and beat our hands upon the sail to keep them from freezing. At 
length the word came — "Haul out to leeward," — and we seized the 
reef-points and hauled the band taught for the lee earing. "Taught 
band — Knot away," and we got the first reef fast, and were just 
going to lay down, when — ^"Two reefs — two reefs!" shouted the 
mate, and we had a second reef to take, in the same way. When this 
was fast, we laid down on deck, manned the halyards to leeward, 
nearly up to our knees in water, set the topsail, and then laid aloft on 
the main topsail yard, and reefed that sail in the same manner; for, 
as I have before stated, we were a good deal reduced in numbers, 
and, to make it worse, the carpenter, only two days before, cut his 
leg with an axe, so that he could not go aloft. This weakened us 
so that we could not well manage more than one topsail at a time, 
in such weather as this, and, of course, our labor was doubled. From 
the main topsail yard, we went upon the main yard, and took a 
reef in the mainsail. No sooner had we got on deck, than — ^"Lay 
aloft there, mizen-top-men, and close-reef the mizen topsail!" This 
called me; and being nearest to the rigging, I got first aloft, and 
out to the weather earing. English Ben was on the yard just after 
me, and took the lee earing, and the rest of our gang were soon on 
the yard, and began to fist the sail, when the mate considerately 
sent up the cook and steward, to help us. I could now account for the 
long time it took to pass the other earings, for, to do my best, with 
a strong hand to help me at the dog's ear, I could not get it passed 
until I heard them beginning to complain in the bunt. One reef 
after another we took in, until the sail was close-reefed, when we 
went down and hoisted away at the halyards. In the mean time, 
the jib had been furled and the staysail set, and the ship, under 
her reduced sail, had got more upright and was under management; 
but the two top-gallant sails were still hanging in the buntlines, 
and slatting and jerking as though they would take the masts out 
of her. We gave a look aloft, and knew that our work was not done 



294 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

yet; and, sure enough, no sooner did the mate see that we were on 
deck, than — "Lay aloft there, four of you, and furl the top-gallant 
sails!" This called me again, and two of us went aloft, up the fore 
rigging, and two more up the main, upon the top-gallant yards. 
The shrouds were now iced over, the sleet having formed a crust 
or cake round all the standing rigging, and on the weather side of 
the masts and yards. When we got upon the yard, my hands were 
so numb that I could not have cast off the knot of the gasket to 
have saved my life. We both lay over the yard for a few seconds, 
beating our hands upon the sail, until we started the blood into our 
fingers' ends, and at the next moment our hands were in a burning 
heat. My companion on the yard was a lad, who came out in 
the ship a weak, puny boy, from one of the Boston schools, — "no 
larger than a spritsail sheet knot," nor "heavier than a paper of lamp- 
black," and "not strong enough to haul a shad off a gridiron," but 
who was now "as long as a spare topmast, strong enough to knock 
down an ox, and hearty enough to eat him." We fisted the sail 
together, and after six or eight minutes of hard hauling and pulling 
and beating down the sail, which was as stiff as sheet iron, we man- 
aged to get it furled; and snugly furled it must be, for we knew the 
mate well enough to be certain that if it got adrift again, we should 
be called up from our watch below, at any hour of the night, to 
furl it. 

I had been on the look-out for a moment to jump below and clap 
on a thick jacket and south-wester; but when we got on deck we 
found that eight bells had been struck, and the other watch gone 
below, so that there were two hours of dog watch for us, and a 
plenty of work to do. It had now set in for a steady gale from the 
south-west; but we were not yet far enough to the southward to 
make a fair wind of it, for we must give Terra del Fuego a wide 
berth. The decks were covered with snow, and there was a con- 
stant driving of sleet. In fact. Cape Horn had set in with good 
earnest. In the midst of all this, and before it became dark, we 
had all the studding-sails to make up and stow away, and then to 
lay aloft and rig in all the booms, fore and aft, and coil away the 
tacks, sheets, and halyards. This was pretty tough work for four or 
five hands, in the face of a gale which almost took us off the yards, 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 295 

and with ropes so stiff with ice that it was ahnost impossible to bend 
them. I was nearly half an hour out on the end of the fore yard, 
trying to coil away and stop down the topmast studding-sail tack 
and lower halyards. It was after dark when we got through, and we 
were not a little pleased to hear four bells struck, which sent us 
below for two hours, and gave us each a pot of hot tea with our 
cold beef and bread, and, what was better yet, a suit of thick, dry 
clothing, fitted for the weather, in place of our thin clothes, which 
were wet through and now frozen stiff. 

This sudden turn, for which we were so litde prepared, was as 
unacceptable to me as to any of the rest; for I had been troubled 
for several days with a slight tooth-ache, and this cold weather, and 
wetting and freezing, were not the best things in the world for it. 
I soon found that it was getting strong hold, and running over all 
parts of my face; and before the watch was out I went aft to the 
mate, who had charge of the medicine-chest, to get something for it. 
But the chest showed like the end of a long voyage, for there was 
nothing that would answer but a few drops of laudanum, which 
must be saved for any emergency; so I had only to bear the pain as 
well as I could. 

When we went on deck at eight bells, it had stopped snowing, 
and there were a few stars out, but the clouds were still black, and 
it was blowing a steady gale. Just before midnight, I went aloft and 
sent down the mizen royal yard, and had the good luck to do it to 
the satisfaction of the mate, who said it was done "out of hand and 
ship-shape." The next four hours below were but little relief to me, 
for I lay awake in my berth, the whole time, from the pain in my 
face, and heard every bell strike, and, at four o'clock, turned out 
with the watch, feeling litde spirit for the hard duties of the day. 
Bad weather and hard work at sea can be borne up against very 
well, if one only has spirit and health; but there is nothing brings 
a man down, at such a time, like bodily pain and want of sleep. 
There was, however, too much to do to allow time to think; for the 
gale of yesterday, and the heavy seas we met with a few days before, 
while we had yet ten degrees more southing to make, had con- 
vinced the captain that we had something before us which was not 
to be trifled with, and orders were given to send down the long top- 



296 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

gallant masts. The top-gallant and royal yards were accordingly 
struck, the flying jib-boom rigged in, and the top-gallant masts sent 
down on deck, and all lashed together by the side of the long-boat. 
The rigging was then sent down and coiled away below, and every- 
thing was made snug aloft. There was not a sailor in the ship who 
was not rejoiced to see these sticks come down; for, so long as the 
yards were aloft, on the least sign of a lull, the top-gallant sails were 
loosed, and then we had to furl them again in a snow-squall, and 
shin up and down single ropes caked with ice, and send royal yards 
down in the teeth of a gale coming right from the south pole. It 
was an interesting sight, too, to see our noble ship, dismantled of all 
her top-hamper of long tapering masts and yards, and boom pointed 
with spear-head, which ornamented her in port; and all that canvas, 
which a few days before had covered her like a cloud, from the 
truck to the water's edge, spreading far out beyond her hull on either 
side, now gone; and she, stripped, like a wrestler for the fight. It 
corresponded, too, with the desolate character of her situation; — 
alone, as she was, battling with storms, wind, and ice, at this 
extremity of the globe, and in almost constant night. 

Friday, July ist. We were now nearly up to the latitude of Cape 
Horn, and having over forty degrees of easting to make, we squared 
away the yards before a strong westerly gale, shook a reef out of the 
fore-topsail, and stood on our way, east-by-south, with the prospect 
of being up with the Cape in a week or ten days. As for myself, I 
had had no sleep for forty-eight hours; and the want of rest, together 
with constant wet and cold, had increased the swelling, so that my 
face was nearly as large as two, and I found it impossible to get my 
mouth open wide enough to eat. In this state, the steward applied 
to the captain for some rice to boil for me, but he only got a — "No! 
d — you! Tell him to eat salt junk and hard bread, like the rest of 
them." For this, of course, I was much obliged to him, and in truth 
it was just what I expected. However, I did not starve, for the 
mate, who was a man as well as a sailor, and had always been a good 
friend to me, smuggled a pan of rice into the galley, and told the 
cook to boil it for me, and not let the "old man" see it. Had it been 
fine weather, or in port, I should have gone below and lain by until 
my face got well; but in such weather as this, and short-handed as 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 297 

we were, it was not for me to desert my post; so I kept on deck, and 
stood my watch and did my duty as well as I could. 

Saturday, July 2nd. This day the sun rose fair, but it ran too low 
in the heavens to give any heat, or thaw out our sails and rigging; 
yet the sight o£ it was pleasant; and we had a steady "reef topsail 
breeze" from the westward. The atmosphere, which had previously 
been clear and cold, for the last few hours grew damp, and had a 
disagreeable, wet chilliness in it; and the man who came from the 
wheel said he heard the captain tell "the passenger" that the ther- 
mometer had fallen several degrees since morning, which he could 
not account for in any other way than by supposing that there must 
be ice near us; though such a thing had never been heard of in this 
latitude, at this season of the year. At twelve o'clock we went below, 
and had j ust got through dinner, when the cook put his head down 
the scuttle and told us to come on deck and see the finest sight that 
we had ever seen. "Where away, cook?" asked the first man who 
was up. "On the larboard bow." And there lay, floating in the 
ocean, several miles off, an immense, irregular mass, its top and 
points covered with snow, and its center of a deep indigo color. 
This was an iceberg, and of the largest size, as one of our men said 
who had been in the Northern ocean. As far as the eye could reach, 
the sea in every direction was of a deep blue color, the waves run- 
ning high and fresh, and sparkling in the light, and in the midst 
lay this immense mountain-island, its cavities and valleys thrown 
into deep shade, and its points and pinnacles glittering in the sun. 
All hands were soon on deck, looking at it, and admiring in various 
ways its beauty and grandeur. But no description can give any idea 
of the strangeness, splendor, and, really, the sublimity, of the sight. 
Its great size; — for it must have been from two to three miles in 
circumference, and several hundred feet in height; — its slow motion, 
as its base rose and sank in the water, and its high points nodded 
against the clouds; the dashing of the waves upon it, which, break- 
ing high with foam, lined its base with a white crust; and the thun- 
dering sound of the cracking of the mass, and the breaking and 
tumbling down of huge pieces; together with its nearness and ap- 
proach, which added a slight element of fear, — all combined to give 
to it the character of true sublimity. The main body of the mass 



298 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

was, as I have said, of an indigo color, its base crusted with frozen 
foam; and as it grew thin and transparent toward the edges and 
top, its color shaded off from a deep blue to the whiteness of snow. 
It seemed to be drifting slowly toward the north, so that we kept 
away and avoided it. It was in sight all the afternoon; and when 
we got to leeward of it, the wind died away, so that we lay-to quite 
near it for a greater part of the night. Unfortunately, there was no 
moon, but it was a clear night, and we could plainly mark the long, 
regular heaving of the stupendous mass, as its edges moved slowly 
against the stars. Several times in our watch loud cracks were heard, 
which sounded as though they must have run through the whole 
length of the iceberg, and several pieces fell down with a thundering 
crash, plunging heavily into the sea. Toward morning, a strong 
breeze sprang up, and we filled away, and left it astern, and at day- 
light it was out of sight. The next day, which was 

Sunday, July ^d, the breeze continued strong, the air exceedingly 
chilly, and the thermometer low. In the course of the day we saw 
several icebergs, of different sizes, but none so near as the one which 
we saw the day before. Some of them, as well as we could judge, at 
the distance at which we were, must have been as large as that, if 
not larger. At noon we were in latitude 55° 12' south, and supposed 
longitude 89° 5' west. Toward night the wind hauled to the south- 
ward, and headed us off our course a little, and blew a tremendous 
gale; but this we did not mind, as there was no rain nor snow, and 
we were already under close sail. 

Monday, July jfth. This was "independence day" in Boston. What 
firing of guns, and ringing of bells, and rejoicings of all sorts, in 
every part of our country! The ladies (who have not gone down 
to Nahant, for a breath of cool air, and sight of the ocean) walking 
the streets with parasols over their heads, and the dandies in their 
white pantaloons and silk stockings! What quantities of ice-cream 
have been eaten, and what quantities of ice brought into the city 
from a distance, and sold out by the lump and the pound! The 
smallest of the islands which we saw to-day would have made the 
fortune of poor Jack, if he had had it in Boston; and I dare say he 
would have had no objection to being there with it. This, to be 
sure, was no place to keep the fourth of July. To keep ourselves 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 299 

warm, and the ship out of the ice, was as much as we could do. Yet 
no one forgot the day; and many were the wishes, and conjectures, 
and comparisons, both serious and ludicrous, which were made 
among all hands. The sun shone bright as long as it was up, only 
that a scud of black clouds was ever and anon driving across it. At 
noon we were in lat. 54° 27' S., and long. 85° 5' W., having made 
a good deal of easting, but having lost in our latitude by the heading 
of the wind. Between daylight and dark — ^that is, between nine 
o'clock and three — we saw thirty-four ice islands, of various sizes; 
some no bigger than the hull of our vessel, and others apparendy 
nearly as large as the one that we first saw; though, as we went on, 
the islands became smaller and more numerous; and, at sundown of 
this day, a man at the mast-head saw large fields of floating ice called 
"field-ice" at the south-east. This kind of ice is much more dangerous 
than the large islands, for those can be seen at a distance, and kept 
away from; but the field-ice, floating in great quantities, and cover- 
ing the ocean for miles and miles, in pieces of every size — ^large, flat, 
and broken cakes, with here and there an island rising twenty and 
thirty feet, and as large as the ship's hull; — ^this, it is very difficult 
to sheer clear of. A constant look-out was necessary; for any of 
these pieces, coming with the heave of the sea, were large enough 
to have knocked a hole in the ship, and that would have been the 
end of us; for no boat (even if we could have got one out) could 
have lived in such a sea; and no man could have lived in a boat in 
such weather. To make our condition still worse, the wind came 
out due east, just after sundown, and it blew a gale dead ahead, 
with hail and sleet, and a thick fog, so that we could not see half 
the length of the ship. Our chief reliance, the prevailing westerly 
gales, was thus cut off; and here we were, nearly seven hundred 
miles to the westward of the Cape, with a gale dead from the east- 
ward, and the weather so thick that we could not see the ice with 
which we were surrounded, until it was directly under our bows. 
At four, P. M. (it was then quite dark) all hands were called, and 
sent aloft in a violent squall of hail and rain, to take in sail. We 
had now all got on our "Cape Horn rig" — thick boots, south-westers 
coming down over our neck and ears, thick trowsers and jackets, 
and some with oil-cloth suits over all. Mittens, too, we wore on 



300 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

deck, but it would not do to go aloft with them on, for it was im- 
possible to work with them, and, being wet and stiff, they might 
let a man slip overboard, for all the hold he could get upon a rope; 
so, we were obliged to work with bare hands, which, as well as 
our faces, were often cut with the hail-stones, which fell thick and 
large. Our ship was now all cased with ice, — hull, spars, and stand- 
ing rigging; — and the running rigging so stiff that we could hardly 
bend it so as to belay it, or, still worse, take a knot with it; and the 
sails nearly as stiff as sheet iron. One at a time, (for it was a long 
piece of work and required many hands,) we furled the courses, 
mizen topsail, and fore-topmast staysail, and close-reefed the fore and 
main topsails, and hove the ship to under the fore, with the main 
hauled up by the clewlines and buntlines, and ready to be sheeted 
home, if we found it necessary to make sail to get to windward of 
an ice island. A regular look-out was then set, and kept by each 
watch in turn, until the morning. It was a tedious and anxious 
night. It blew hard the whole time, and there was an almost con- 
stant driving of either rain, hail, or snow. In addition to this, it was 
"as thick as muck," and the ice was all about us. The captain was 
on deck nearly the whole night, and kept the cook in the galley, 
with a roaring fire, to make coffee for him, which he took every few 
hours, and once or twice gave a little to his officers; but not a drop 
of anything was there for the crew. The captain, who sleeps all 
the daytime, and comes and goes at night as he chooses, can have 
his brandy and water in the cabin, and his hot coffee at the galley; 
while Jack, who has to stand through everything, and work in wet 
and cold, can have nothing to wet his lips or warm his stomach. 
This was a "temperance ship," and, Uke too many such ships, the 
temperance was all in the forecastle. The sailor, who only takes his 
one glass as it is dealt out to him, is in danger of being drunk; while 
the captain, who has all under his hand, and can drink as much as 
he chooses, and upon whose self-possession and cool judgment the 
lives of all depend, may be trusted with any amount, to drink at 
his will. Sailors will never be convinced that rum is a dangerous 
thing, by taking it away from them, and giving it to the officers; 
nor that, that temperance is their friend, which takes from them 
what they have always had, and gives them nothing in the place of 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 3OI 

it. By seeing it allowed to their officers, they will not be convinced 
that it is taken from them for their good; and by receiving nothing 
in its place, they will not believe that it is done in kindness. On the 
contrary, many of them look upon the change as a new instrument 
of tyranny. Not that they prefer rum. I never knew a sailor, in my 
life, who would not prefer a pot of hot coffee or chocolate, in a cold 
night, to all the rum afloat. They all say that rum only warms them, 
for a time; yet, if they can get nothing better, they will miss what 
they have lost. The momentary warmth and glow from drinking it; 
the break and change which is made in a long, dreary watch by 
the mere calling all hands aft and serving of it out; and the simply 
having some event to look forward to, and to talk about; give it an 
importance and a use which no one can appreciate who has not 
stood his watch before the mast. On my passage round Cape Horn 
before, the vessel that I was in was not under temperance articles, 
and grog was served out every middle and morning watch, and after 
every reefing of topsails; and though I had never drank rum before, 
and never intend to again, I took my allowance then at the capstan, 
as the rest did, merely for the momentary warmth it gave the sys- 
tem, and the change in our feelings and aspect of our duties on the 
watch. At the same time, as I have stated, there was not a man on 
board who would not have pitched the rum to the dogs, (I have 
heard them say so, a dozen times) for a pot of coffee or chocolate; 
or even for our common beverage — "water bewitched, and tea be- 
grudged," as it was.^ The temperance reform is the best thing that 
ever was undertaken for the sailor; but when the grog is taken from 
him, he ought to have something in its place. As it is now, in most 
vessels, it is a mere saving to the owners; and this accounts for the 
sudden increase of temperance ships, which surprised even the best 
friends of the cause. If every merchant, when he struck grog from 
the list of the expenses of his ship, had been obliged to substitute as 
much coffee, or chocolate, as would give each man a pot-full when 

' The proportions of the ingredients of the tea that was made for us (and ours,, 
as I have before stated, was a favorable specimen of American merchantmen) were, 
a pint of tea, and a pint and a half of molasses, to about three gallons of water. 
These are all boiled down together in the "coppers," and before serving it out, the 
mess is stirred up with a stick, so as to give each man his fair share of sweetening 
and tea-leaves. The tea for the cabin is, of course, made in the usual way, in a 
tea-pot, and drank with sugar. 



302 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

he came off the topsail yard, on a stormy night; — I fear Jack might 
have gone to ruin on the old road.^ 

But this is not doubUng Cape Horn. Eight hours of the night, 
our watch was on deck, and during the whole of that time we kept 
a bright look-out: one man on each bow, another in the bunt of the 
fore yard, the third mate on the scuttle, one on each quarter, and 
a man always standing by the wheel. The chief mate was every- 
where, and commanded the ship when the captain was below. 
When a large piece of ice was seen in our way, or drifting near us, 
the word was passed along, and the ship's head turned one way 
and another; and sometimes the yards squared or braced up. There 
was little else to do than to look out; and we had the sharpest eyes 
in the ship on the forecasde. The only variety was the monotonous 
voice of the look-out forward — "Another island!" — "Ice ahead!" — 
"Ice on the lee bow!"— "Hard up the helm!"— "Keep her off a littlel" 
— "Stead-y!" 

In the meantime, the wet and cold had brought my face into such 
a state that I could neither eat nor sleep; and though I stood it out 
all night, yet, when it became light, I was in such a state, that all 
hands told me I must go below, and lie-by for a day or two, or I 
should be laid up for a long time, and perhaps have the lock-jaw. 
When the watch was changed I went into the steerage, and took 
off my hat and comforter, and showed my face to the mate, who 
told me to go below at once, and stay in my berth until the swelling 
went down, and gave the cook orders to make a poultice for me, and 
said he would speak to the captain. 

I went below and turned-in, covering myself over with blankets 
and jackets, and lay in my berth nearly twenty-four hours, half 
asleep and half awake, stupid, from the dull pain. I heard the watch 
called, and the men going up and down, and sometimes a noise on 

^ I do not wish these remarks, so far as they relate to the saving of expense in the 
outfit, to be applied to the owners of our ship, for she was supplied with an abun- 
dance of stores, of the best kind that are given to seamen; though the dispensing of 
them is necessarily left to the captain. Indeed, so high was the reputation of "the 
employ" among men and officers, for the character and outfit of their vessels, and 
for their liberality in conducting their voyages, that when it was known that they 
had a ship fitting out for a long voyage, and that hands were to be shipped at a 
certain time, — a half hour before the time, as one of the crew told me, numbers of 
sailors were steering down the wharf, hopping over the barrels, like flocks of sheep. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 303 

deck, and a cry of "ice," but I gave little attention to anything. At 
the end of twenty-four hours the pain went down, and I had a long 
sleep, which brought me back to my proper state; yet my face was 
so swollen and tender, that I was obliged to keep to my berth for two 
or three days longer. During the two days I had been below, the 
weather was much the same that it had been, head winds, and snow 
and rain; or, if the wind came fair, too foggy, and the ice too thick, 
to run. At the end of the third day the ice was very thick; a com- 
plete fog-bank covered the ship. It blew a tremendous gale from the 
eastward, with sleet and snow, and there was every promise of a 
dangerous and fatiguing night. At dark, the captain called all hands 
aft, and told them that not a man was to leave the deck that night; 
that the ship was in the greatest danger; any cake of ice might knock 
a hole in her, or she might run on an island and go to pieces. No 
one could tell whether she would be a ship the next morning. The 
look-outs were then set, and every man was put in his station. When 
I heard what was the state of things, I began to put on my clothes 
to stand it out with the rest of them, when the mate came below, 
and looking at my face, ordered me back to my berth, saying that 
if we went down, we should all go down together, but if I went on 
deck I might lay myself up for life. This was the first word I had 
heard from aft; for the captain had done nothing, nor inquired how 
I was, since I went below. 

In obedience to the mate's orders, I went back to my berth; but 
a more miserable night I never wish to spend. I never felt the curse 
of sickness so keenly in my life. If I could only have been on deck 
with the rest, where something was to be done, and seen, and heard; 
where there were fellow-beings for companions in duty and danger 
— but to be cooped up alone in a black hole, in equal danger, but 
without the power to do, was the hardest trial. Several times, in 
the course of the night, I got up, determined to go on deck; but the 
silence which showed that there was nothing doing, and the knowl- 
edge that I might make myself seriously ill, for nothing, kept me 
back. It was not easy to sleep, lying, as I did, with my head 
directly against the bows, which might be dashed in by an island of 
ice, brought down by the very next sea that struck her. This was 
the only time I had been ill since I left Boston, and it was the worst 



304 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

time it could have happened. I felt almost willing to bear the plagues 
of Egypt for the rest of the voyage, if I could but be well and strong 
for that one night. Yet it was a dreadful night for those on deck. 
A watch of eighteen hours, with wet, and cold, and constant anxiety, 
nearly wore them out; and when they came below at nine o'clock 
for breakfast, they almost dropped asleep on their chests, and some 
of them were so stif? that they could with difficulty sit down. Not 
a drop of anything had been given them during the whole time, 
(though the captain, as on the night that I was on deck, had his 
coffee every four hours,) except that the mate stole a potful of coffee 
for two men to drink behind the galley, while he kept a look-out for 
the captain. Every man had his station, and was not allowed to 
leave it; and nothing happened to break the monotony of the night, 
except, once setting the main topsails to run clear of a large island 
to leeward, which they were drifting fast upon. Some of the boys 
got so sleepy and stupefied, that they actually fell asleep at their 
posts; and the young third mate, whose station was the exposed 
one of standing on the fore scuttle, was so stiff, when he was re- 
lieved, that he could not bend his knees to get down. By a constant 
look-out, and a quick shifting of the helm, as the islands and pieces 
came in sight, the ship went clear of everything but a few small 
pieces, though daylight showed the ocean covered for miles. At 
daybreak it fell a dead calm, and with the sun, the fog cleared a 
little, and a breeze sprung up from the westward, which soon grew 
into a gale. We had now a fair wind, daylight, and comparatively 
clear weather; yet, to the surprise of every one, the ship continued 
hove-to. Why does not he run? What is the captain about? was 
asked by every one; and from questions, it soon grew into com- 
plaints and murmurings. When the daylight was so short, it was too 
bad to lose it, and a fair wind, too, which every one had been pray- 
ing for. As hour followed hour, and the captain showed no sign 
of making sail, the crew became impatient, and there was a good 
deal of talking and consultation together, on the forecastle. They 
had been beaten out with the exposure and hardship, and impatient 
to get out of it, and this unaccountable delay was more than they 
could bear in quietness, in their excited and restless state. Some 
said that the captain was frightened, — completely cowed, by the 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 305 

dangers and difficulties that surrounded us, and was afraid to 
make sail; while others said that in his anxiety and suspense he 
had made a free use of brandy and opium, and was unfit for his 
duty. The carpenter, who was an intelligent man, and a thorough 
seaman, and had great influence with the crew, came down into 
the forecastle, and tried to induce the crew to go aft and ask the 
captain why he did not run, or request him, in the name of all 
hands, to make sail. This appeared to be a very reasonable request, 
and the crew agreed that if he did not make sail before noon, they 
would go aft. Noon came, and no sail was made. A consultation 
was held again, and it was proposed to take the ship from the cap- 
tain and give the command of her to the mate, who had been heard 
to say that, if he could have his way, the ship would have been half 
the distance to the Cape before night, — ice or no ice. And so irritated 
and impatient had the crew become, that even this proposition, 
which was open mutiny, punishable with state prison, was enter- 
tained, and the carpenter went to his berth, leaving it tacitly under- 
stood that something serious would be done, if things remained as 
they were many hours longer. When the carpenter left, we talked 
it all over, an''' I gave my advice strongly against it. Another of the 
men, too, who had known something of the kind attempted in 
another ship by a crew who were dissatisfied with their captain, 
and which was followed with serious consequences, was opposed 

to it. S , who soon came down, joined us, and we determined 

to have nothing to do with it. By these means, they were soon induced 
to give it up, for the present, though they said they would not lie 
where they were much longer without knowing the reason. 

The affair remained in this state until four o'clock, when an order 
came forward for all hands to come aft upon the quarter-deck. In 
about ten minutes they came forward again, and the whole affair 
had been blown. The carpenter, very prematurely, and without 
any authority from the crew, had sounded the mate as to whether 
he would take command of the ship, and intimated an intention to 
displace the captain; and the mate, as in duty bound, had told the 
whole to the captain, who immediately sent for all hands aft. In- 
stead of violent measures, or, at least, an outbreak of quarter-deck 
bravado, threats, and abuse, which they had every reason to expect, 



306 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

a sense of common danger and common suffering seemed to have 
tamed his spirit, and begotten something Hke a humane fellow- 
feeling; for he received the crew in a manner quiet, and even almost 
kind. He told them what he had heard, and said that he did not 
believe that they would try to do any such thing as was intimated; 
that they had always been good men, — obedient, and knew their 
duty, and he had no fault to find with them; and asked them what 
they had to complain of — said that no one could say that he was 
slow to carry sail, (which was true enough;) and that, as soon as 
he thought it was safe and proper, he should make sail. He added 
a few words about their duty in their present situation, and sent 
them forward, saying that he should take no further notice of the 
matter; but, at the same time, told the carpenter to recollect whose 
power he was in, and that if he heard another word from him he 
would have cause to remember him to the day of his death. 

This language of the captain had a very good effect upon the crew, 
and they returned quietly to their duty. 

For two days more the wind blew from the southward and east- 
ward; or in the short intervals when it was fair, the ice was too 
thick to run; yet the weather was not so dreadfully bad, and the 
crew had watch and watch. I still remained in my berth, fast recov- 
ering, yet still not well enough to go safely on deck. And I should 
have been perfectly useless; for, from having eaten nothing for 
nearly a week, except a little rice, which I forced into my mouth the 
last day or two, I was as weak as an infant. To be sick in a fore- 
castle is miserable indeed. It is the worst part of a dog's life; espe- 
cially in bad weather. The forecastle, shut up tight to keep out the 
water and cold air; — the watch either on deck, or asleep in their 
berths; — no one to speak to; — the pale light of the single lamp, 
swinging to and fro from the beam, so dim that one can scarcely 
see, much less read by it; — the water dropping from the beams and 
carlines, and running down the sides; and the forecastle so wet, and 
dark, and cheerless, and so lumbered up with chests and wet clothes, 
that sitting up is worse than lying in the berth! These are some of 
the evils. Fortunately, I needed no help from any one, and no medi- 
cine; and if I had needed help, I don't know where I should have 
found it. Sailors are willing enough, but it is true, as is often said — 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST TfiJ 

No one ships for nurse on board a vessel. Our merchant ships are 
always under-manned, and if one man is lost by sickness, they can- 
not spare another to take care of him. A sailor is always presumed 
to be well, and if he's sick, he's a poor dog. One has to stand his 
wheel, and another his lookout, and the sooner he gets on deck 
again, the better. 

Accordingly, as soon as I could possibly go back to my duty, I put 
on my thick clothes and boots and south-wester, and made my ap- 
pearance on deck. Though I had been but a few days below, yet 
everything looked strangely enough. The ship was cased in ice, — 
decks, sides, masts, yards, and rigging. Two close-reefed top-sails 
were all the sail she had on, and every sail and rope was frozen so 
stiff in its place, that it seemed as though it would be impossible to 
start anything. Reduced, too, to her top-masts, she had altogether 
a most forlorn and crippled appearance. The sun had come up 
brightly; the snow was swept off the decks, and ashes thrown upon 
them, so that we could walk, for they had been as slippery as glass. 
It was, of course, too cold to carry on any ship's work, and we had 
only to walk the deck and keep ourselves warm. The wind was still 
ahead, and the whole ocean, to the eastward, covered with islands 
and field-ice. At four bells the order was given to square away the 
yards; and the man who came from the helm said that the captain 
had kept her off to N. N. E. What could this mean? Some said 
that he was going to put into Valparaiso, and winter, and others that 
he was going to run out of the ice and cross the Pacific, and go 
home round the Cape of Good Hope. Soon, however, it leaked out, 
and we found that we were running for the straits of Magellan. The 
news soon spread through the ship, and all tongues were at work, 
talking about it. No one on board had been through the straits, 
but I had in my chest an account of the passage of the ship A. J. 
Donelson, of New York, through those straits, a few years before. 
The account was given by the captain, and the representation was 
as favorable as possible. It was soon read by every one on board, 
and various opinions pronounced. The determination of our captain 
had at least this good effect; it gave every one something to think 
and talk about, made a break in our life, and diverted our minds 
from the monotonous dreariness of the prospect before us. Having 



308 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

made a fair wind of it, we were going off at a good rate, and leaving 
the thickest of the ice behind us. This, at least, was something. 

Having been long enough below to get my hands well warmed 
and softened, the first handling of the ropes was rather tough; but 
a few days hardened them, and as soon as I got my mouth open 
wide enough to take in a piece of salt beef and hard bread, I was 
all right again. 

Sunday, July loth. Lat. 54° 10', long. 79° 07'. This was our posi- 
tion at noon. The sun was out bright; the ice was all left behind, 
and things had quite a cheering appearance. We brought our wet 
pea-jackets and trowsers on deck, and hung them up in the rigging, 
that the breeze and the few hours of sun might dry them a little; 
and, by the permission of the cook, the galley was nearly filled with 
stockings and mittens, hung round to be dried. Boots, too, were 
brought up; and having got a little tar and slush from below, we 
gave them a thick coat. After dinner, all hands were turned-to, to 
get the anchors over the bows, bend on the chains, etc. The fish- 
tackle was got up, fish-davit rigged out, and after two or three hours 
of hard and cold work, both the anchors were ready for instant use, 
a couple of kedges got up, a hawser coiled away upon the fore-hatch, 
and the deep-sea-lead-line overhauled and got ready. Our spirits 
returned with having something to do; and when the tackle was 
manned to bowse the anchor home, notwithstanding the desolation 
of the scene, we struck up "Cheerily ho!" in full chorus. This pleased 
the mate, who rubbed his hands and cried out — "That's right, my 
boys; never say die! That sounds like the old crew!" and the cap- 
tain came up, on hearing the song, and said to the passenger, within 
hearing of the man at the wheel, — "That sounds like a lively crew. 
They'll have their song so long as there're enough left for a chorus!" 

This preparation of the cable and anchors was for the passage of 
the straits; for, being very crooked, and with a variety of currents, it 
is necessary to come frequently to anchor. This was not, by any 
means, a pleasant prospect, for, of all the work that a sailor is called 
upon to do in cold weather, there is none so bad as working the 
ground-tackle. The heavy chain cables to be hauled and pulled 
about the decks with bare hands; wet hawsers, slip-ropes, and buoy- 
ropes to be hauled aboard, dripping in water, which is running up 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 309 

your sleeves, and freezing; clearing hawse under the bows; getting 
under weigh and coming-to, at all hours of the night and day, and 
a constant look-out for rocks and sands and turns of tides; — these 
are some of the disagreeables of such a navigation to a common 
sailor. Fair or foul, he wants to have nothing to do with the ground- 
tackle between port and port. One of our hands, too, had unluckily 
fallen upon a half of an old newspaper which contained an account 
of the passage, through the straits, of a Boston brig, called, I think, 
the Peruvian, in which she lost every cable and anchor she had, got 
aground twice, and arrived at Valparaiso in distress. This was set 
off against the account of the A. J. Donelson, and led us to look 
forward with less confidence to the passage, especially as no one on 
board had ever been through, and the captain had no very perfect 
charts. However, we were spared any further experience on the 
point; for the next day, when we must have been near the Cape of 
Pillars, which is the south-west point of the mouth of the straits, a 
gale set in from the eastward, with a heavy fog, so that we could 
not see half of the ship's length ahead. This, of course, put an end 
to the project, for the present; for a thick fog and a gale blowing 
dead ahead are not the most favorable circumstances for the passage 
of difficult and dangerous straits. This weather, too, seemed likely 
to last for some time, and we could not think of beating about the 
mouth of the straits for a week or two, waiting for a favorable oppor- 
tunity; so we braced up on the larboard tack, put the ship's head 
due south, and struck her off for Cape Horn again. 



CHAPTER XXXII 

Ice Again — ^A Beautiful Afternoon — Cape Horn — "Land Ho!" 
— Heading for Home 

IN our first attempt to double the Cape, when we came up to 
the latitude o£ it, we were nearly seventeen hundred miles to the 
westward, but, in running for the straits of Magellan, we stood 
so far to the eastward, that we made our second attempt at a dis- 
tance of not more than four or five hundred miles; and we had 
great hopes, by this means, to run clear of the ice; thinking that 
the easterly gales, which had prevailed for a long time, would have 
driven it to the westward. With the wind about two points free, 
the yards braced in a little, and two close-reefed topsails and a reefed 
foresail on the ship, we made great way toward the southward and, 
almost every watch, when we came on deck, the air seemed to grow 
colder, and the sea to run higher. Still, we saw no ice, and had 
great hopes of going clear of it altogether, when, one afternoon, 
about three o'clock, while we were taking a siesta during our watch 
below, "All hands!" was called in a loud and fearful voice. "Tumble 
up here, men! — tumble up! — don't stop for your clothes — before 
we're upon it!" We sprang out of our berths and hurried upon deck. 
The loud, sharp voice of the captain was heard giving orders, as 
though for life or death, and we ran aft to the braces, not waiting 
to look ahead, for not a moment was to be lost. The helm was 
hard up, the after yards shaking, and the ship in the act of wearing. 
Slowly, with stiff ropes and iced rigging, we swung the yards round, 
everything coming hard, and with a creaking and rending sound, 
like pulling up a plank which had been frozen into the ice. The ship 
wore round fairly, the yards were steadied, and we stood off on the 
other tack, leaving behind us, directly under our larboard quarter, a 
large ice island, peering out of the mist, and reaching high above our 
tops, while astern; and on either side of the island, large tracts of 
field-ice were dimly seen, heaving and rolling in the sea. We were 

310 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 3II 

now safe, and standing to the northward; but, in a few minutes 
more, had it not been for the sharp look-out of the watch, we should 
have been fairly upon the ice, and left our ship's old bones adrift in 
the Southern ocean. After standing to the northward a few hours, 
we wore ship, and the wind having hauled, we stood to the south- 
ward and eastward. All night long, a bright lookout was kept from 
every part of the deck; and whenever ice was seen on the one 
bow or the other, the helm was shifted and the yards braced, and 
by quick working of the ship she was kept clear. The accustomed 
cry of "Ice ahead!" — "Ice on the lee bow!" — "Another island!" in 
the same tones, and with the same orders following them, seemed 
to bring us directly back to our old position of the week before. 
During our watch on deck, which was from twelve to four, the wind 
came out ahead, with a pelting storm of hail and sleet, and we lay 
hove-to, under a close-reefed main topsail, the whole watch. During 
the next watch it fell calm, with a drenching rain, until daybreak, 
when the wind came out to the westward, and the weather cleared 
up, and showed us the whole ocean, in the course which we should 
have steered, had it not been for the head wind and calm, com- 
pletely blocked up with ice. Here then our progress was stopped, 
and we wore ship, and once more stood to the northward and 
eastward; not for the straits of Magellan, but to make another 
attempt to double the Cape, still farther to the eastward; for the 
captain was determined to get round if perseverance could do it; 
and the third time, he said, never failed. 

With a fair wind we soon ran clear of the field-ice, and by noon 
had only the stray islands floating far and near upon the ocean. 
The sun was out bright, the sea of a deep blue, fringed with the 
white foam of the waves which ran high before a strong south- 
wester; our solitary ship tore on through the water, as though glad 
to be out of her confinement; and the ice islands lay scattered upon 
the ocean here and there, of various sizes and shapes, reflecting the 
bright rays of the sun, and drifting slowly northward before the 
gale. It was a contrast to much that we had lately seen, and a spec- 
tacle not only of beauty, but of life; for it required but little fancy to 
imagine these islands to be animate masses which had broken loose 
from the "thrilUng regions of thick-ribbed ice," and were working 



312 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

their way, by wind and current, some alone, and some in fleets, to 
milder climes. No pencil has ever yet given anything like the true 
effect of an iceberg. In a picture, they are huge, uncouth masses, 
stuck in the sea, while their chief beauty and grandeur, — their slow, 
stately motion; the whirling of the snow about their summits, and 
the fearful groaning and cracking of their parts, — the picture cannot 
give. This is the large iceberg; while the small and distant islands, 
floating on the smooth sea, in the light of a clear day, look like 
little floating fairy isles of sapphire. 

From a north-east course we gradually hauled to the eastward, 
and after sailing about two hundred miles, which brought us as 
near to the western coast of Terra del Fuego as was safe, and having 
lost sight of the ice altogether, — for the third time we put the ship's 
head to the southward, to try the passage of the Cape. The weather 
continued clear and cold, with a strong gale from the westward, 
and we were fast getting up with the latitude of the Cape, with a 
prospect of soon being round. One fine afternoon, a man who had 
gone into the fore-top to shift the rolling tackles, sung out, at the 
top of his voice, and with evident glee, — "Sail ho!" Neither land nor 
sail had we seen since leaving San Diego; and any one who has 
traversed the length of a whole ocean alone, can imagine what an 
excitement such an announcement produced on board. "Sail ho!" 
shouted the cook, jumping out of his galley; "Sail ho!" shouted a 
man, throwing back the slide of the scuttle, to the watch below, 
who were soon out of their berths and on deck; and "Sail ho!" 
shouted the captain down the companion-way to the passenger in 
the cabin. Besides the pleasure of seeing a ship and human beings 
in so desolate a place, it was important for us to speak a vessel, to 
learn whether there was ice to the eastward, and to ascertain the 
longitude; for we had no chronometer, and had been drifting about 
so long that we had nearly lost our reckoning, and opportunities 
for lunar observations are not frequent or sure in such a place as 
Cape Horn. For these various reasons, the excitement in our little 
community was running high, and conjectures were made, and 
everything thought of for which the captain would hail, when the 
man aloft sung out — "Another sail, large on the weather bow!" 
This was a little odd, but so much the better, and did not shake our 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 313 

faith in their being sails. At length the man in the top hailed, and 
said he believed it was land, after all. "Land in your eye!" said the 
mate, who was looking through a telescope; "they are ice islands, 
if I can see a hole through a ladder;" and a few moments showed 
the mate to be right and all our expectations fled; and instead of 
what we most wished to see, we had what we most dreaded, and 
what we hoped we had seen the last of. We soon, however, left these 
astern, having passed within about two miles of them; and at sun- 
down the horizon was clear in all directions. 

Having a fine wind, we were soon up with and passed the latitude 
of the Cape, and having stood far enough to the southward to give 
it a wide berth, we began to stand to the eastward, with a good pros- 
pect of being round and steering to the northward on the other side, 
in a very few days. 

But ill luck seemed to have lighted upon us. Not four hours had 
we been standing on in this course, before it fell dead calm; and 
in half an hour it clouded up; a few straggling blasts, with spits of 
snow and sleet, came from the eastward; and in an hour more, we 
lay hove-to under a close-reefed main topsail, drifting bodily off to 
leeward before the fiercest storm that we had yet felt, blowing dead 
ahead, from the eastward. It seemed as though the genius of the 
place had been roused at finding that we had nearly slipped through 
his fingers, and had come down upon us with tenfold fury. The 
sailors said that every blast, as it shook the shrouds, and whistled 
through the rigging, said to the old ship, "No, you don't!" — "No, 
you don't!" 

For eight days we lay drifting about in this manner. Sometimes, 
— generally towards noon, — it fell calm; once or twice a round 
copper ball showed itself for a few moments in the place where the 
sun ought to have been; and a puff or two came from the westward, 
giving some hope that a fair wind had come at last. During the 
first two days, we made sail for these pufis, shaking the reefs out 
of the topsails and boarding the tacks of the courses; but finding that 
it only made work for us when the gale set in again, it was soon 
given up, and we lay-to under our close-reefs. 

We had less snow and hail than when we were farther to the 
westward, but we had an abundance of what is worse to a sailor in 



314 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

cold weather — drenching rain. Snow is blinding, and very bad when 
coming upon a coast, but, for genuine discomfort, give me rain with 
freezing weather. A snow-storm is exciting, and it does not wet 
through the clothes (which is important to a sailor) ; but a constant 
rain there is no escaping from. It wets to the skin, and makes all 
protection vain. We had long ago run through all our dry clothes, 
and as sailors have no other way of drying them than by the sun, 
we had nothing to do but to put on those which were the least wet. 
At the end of each watch, when we came below, we took off our 
clothes and wrung them out; two taking hold of a pair of trowsers, 
— one at each end, — and jackets in the same way. Stockings, mittens, 
and all, were wrung out also and then hung up to drain and chafe 
dry against the bulk-heads. Then, feeling of all our clothes, we 
picked out those which were the least wet, and put them on, so as 
to be ready for a call, and turned-in, covered ourselves up with 
blankets, and slept until three knocks on the scuttle and the dismal 
sound of "All starbowlines ahoy! Eight bells, there below! Do 
you hear the news?" drawled out from on deck, and the sulky 
answer of "Aye, aye!" from below, sent us up again. 

On deck, all was as dark as a pocket, and either a dead calm, with 
the rain pouring steadily down, or, more generally, a violent gale 
dead ahead, with rain pelting horizontally, and occasional variations 
of hail and sleet; — decks afloat with water swashing from side to 
side, and constantly wet feet; for boots could not be wrung out like 
drawers, and no composition could stand the constant soaking. In 
fact, wet and cold feet are inevitable in such weather, and are not 
the least of those little items which go to make up the grand total 
o£ the discomforts of a winter passage round the Cape. Few words 
were spoken between the watches as they shifted, the wheel was 
reUeved, the mate took his place on the quarter-deck, the look-outs 
in the bows; and each man had his narrow space to walk fore and 
aft in, or, rather, to swing himself forward and back in, from one 
belaying pin to another, — for the decks were too slippery with ice 
and water to allow of much walking. To make a walk, which is 
absolutely necessary to pass away the time, one of us hit upon the 
expedient of sanding the deck; and afterwards, whenever the rain 
was not so violent as to wash it off, the weatherside of the quarter- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 315 

deck and a part of the waist and forecastle were sprinkled with the 
sand which we had on board for holystoning; and thus we made 
a good promenade, where we walked fore and aft, two and two, 
hour after hour, in our long, dull, and comfortless watches. The 
bells seemed to be an hour or two apart, instead of half an hour, and 
an age to elapse before the welcome sound of eight bells. The sole 
object was to make the time pass on. Any change was sought for, 
which would break the monotony of the time; and even the two 
hours' trick at the wheel, which came round to each of us, in turn, 
once in every other watch, was looked upon as a relief. Even the 
never-failing resource of long yarns, which eke out many a watch, 
seemed to have failed us now; for we had been so long together 
that we had heard each other's stories told over and over again, till 
we had them by heart; each one knew the whole history of each of 
the others, and we were fairly and literally talked out. Singing and 
joking, we were in no humor for, and, in fact, any sound of mirth 
or laughter would have struck strangely upon our ears, and would 
not have been tolerated, any more than whistling, or a wind instru- 
ment. The last resort, that of speculating upon the future, seemed 
now to fail us, for our discouraging situation, and the danger we 
were really in, (as we expected every day to find ourselves drifted 
back among the ice) "clapped a stopper" upon all that. From saying 
— "when we get home" — we began insensibly to alter it to — "if we 
get home" — and at last the subject was dropped by a tacit consent. 

In this state of things, a new light was struck out, and a new field 
opened, by a change in the watch. One of our watch was laid up for 
two or three days by a bad hand, (for in cold weather the least cut 
or bruise ripens into a sore,) and his place was supplied by the car- 
penter. This was a windfall, and there was quite a contest, who 
should have the carpenter to walk with him. As "Chips" was a 
man of some httle education, and he and I had had a good deal of 
intercourse with each other, he fell in with me in my walk. He was 
a Fin, but spoke English very well, and gave me long accounts of 
his country; — the customs, the trade, the towns, what litde he knew 
of the government, (I found he was no friend of Russia), his voy- 
ages, his first arrival in America, his marriage and courtship; — ^he 
had married a countrywoman of his, a dress-maker, whom he met 



3l6 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

with in Boston. I had very little to tell him of my quiet, sedentary 
life at home; and, in spite of our best efforts, which had protracted 
these yarns through five or six watches, we fairly talked one another 
out, and I turned him over to another man in the watch, and put 
myself upon my own resources. 

I commenced a deUberate system of time-killing, which united 
some profit with a cheering up of the heavy hours. As soon as I 
came on deck, and took my place and regular walk, I began with 
repeating over to myself a string of matters which I had in my mem- 
ory, in regular order. First, the multiplication table and the tables 
of weights and measures; then the states of the union, with their 
capitals; the counties of England, with their shire towns; the kings 
of England in their order; and a large part of the peerage, which 
I committed from an almanac that we had on board; and then 
the Kanaka numerals. This carried me through my facts, and, being 
repeated deliberately, with long intervals, often eked out the two 
first bells. Then came the ten commandments; the thirty-ninth 
chapter of Job, and a few other passages from Scripture. The next in 
the order, that I never varied from, came Cowper's Castaway, which 
was a great favorite with me; the solemn measure and gloomy char- 
acter of which, as well as the incident that it was founded upon, 
made it well suited to a lonely watch at sea. Then his lines to Mary, 
his address to the jackdaw, and a short extract from Table Talk; 
(I abounded in Cowper, for I happened to have a volume of his 
poems in my chest;) "Hie et nefasto" from Horace, and Goethe's Erl 
King. After I had got through these, I allowed myself a more 
general range among everything that I could remember, both in 
prose and verse. In this way, with an occasional break by relieving 
the wheel, heaving the log, and going to the scuttle-butt for a drink 
of water, the longest watch was passed away; and I was so regular 
in my silent recitations, that if there was no interruption by ship's 
duty, I could tell very nearly the number of bells by my progress. 

Our watches below were no more varied than the watch on deck. 
All washing, sewing, and reading was given up; and we did nothing 
but eat, sleep, and stand our watch, leading what might be called a 
Cape Horn life. The forecastle was too uncomfortable to sit up in; 
and whenever we were below, we were in our berths. To prevent 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 317 

the rain, and the sea-water which broke over the bows, from wash- 
ing down, we were obliged to keep the scuttle closed, so that the 
forecastle was nearly air-tight. In this little, wet, leaky hole, we 
were all quartered, in an atmosphere so bad that our lamp, which 
swung in the middle from the beams, sometimes actually burned 
blue, with a large circle of foul air about it. Still I was never in 
better health than after three weeks of this life. I gained a great 
deal of flesh, and we all ate like horses. At every watch, when we 
came below, before turning-in, the bread barge and beef kid were 
overhauled. Each man drank his quart of hot tea night and morn- 
ing; and glad enough we were to get it, for no nectar and ambrosia 
were sweeter to the lazy immortals, than was a pot of hot tea, a hard 
biscuit, and a slice of cold salt beef, to us after a watch on deck. To 
be sure, we were mere animals and had this life lasted a year instead 
of a month we should have been little better than the ropes in the 
ship. Not a razor, nor a brush, nor a drop of water, except the rain 
and the spray, had come near us all the time; for we were on an 
allowance of fresh water; and who would strip and wash himself 
in salt water on deck, in the snow and ice, with the thermometer at 
zero? 

After about eight days of constant easterly gales, the wind hauled 
occasionally a little to the southward, and blew hard, which, as we 
were well to the southward, allowed us to brace in a little and 
stand on, under all the sail we could carry. These turns lasted but a 
short while, and sooner or later it set again from the old quarter; 
yet each time we made something, and were gradually edging along 
to the eastward. One night, after one of these shifts of the wind, 
and when all hands had been up a great part of the time, our watch 
was left on deck, with the mainsail hanging in the buntlines, ready 
to be set if necessary. It came on to blow worse and worse, with 
hail and snow beating like so many furies upon the ship, it being 
as dark and thick as night could make it. The mainsail was blowing 
and slatting with a noise like thunder, when the captain came on 
deck, and ordered it to be furled. The mate was about to call all 
hands, when the captain stopped him, and said that the men would 
be beaten out if they were called up so often; that as our watch 
must stay on deck, it might as well be doing that as anything else. 



3l8 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

Accordingly, we went upon the yard; and never shall I forget that 
piece of work. Our watch had been so reduced by sickness, and 
by some having been left in California, that, with one man at the 
wheel, we had only the third mate and three beside myself to go 
aloft; so that at most, we could only attempt to furl one yard-arm 
at a time. We manned the weather yard-arm, and set to work to 
make a furl of it. Our lower masts being short, and our yards very 
square, the sail had a head of nearly fifty feet, and a short leach, 
made still shorter by the deep reef which was in it, which brought 
the clew away out on the quarters of the yard, and made a bunt 
nearly as square as the mizen royal-yard. Beside this difficulty, the 
yard over which we lay was cased with ice, the gaskets and rope of 
the foot and leach of the sail as stiff and hard as a piece of suction- 
hose, and the sail itself about as pliable as though it had been made 
of sheets of sheathing copper. It blew a perfect hurricane, with 
alternate blasts of snow, hail, and rain. We had to jist the sail with 
bare hands. No one could trust himself to mittens, for if he slipped, 
he was a gone man. All the boats were hoisted in on deck, and 
there was nothing to be lowered for him. We had need of every 
finger God had given us. Several times we got the sail upon the 
yard, but it blew away again before we could secure it. It required 
men to lie over the yard to pass each turn of the gaskets, and when 
they were passed, it was almost impossible to knot them so that they 
would hold. Frequently we were obliged to leave off altogether and 
take to beating our hands upon the sail, to keep them from freezing. 
After some time, — which seemed forever, — we got the weather side 
stowed after a fashion, and went over to leeward for another trial. 
This was still worse, for the body of the sail had been blown over 
to leeward, and as the yard was a-cock-bill by the lying over of the 
vessel, we had to light it all up to windward. When the yard-arms 
were furled, the bunt was all adrift again, which made more work 
for us. We got all secure at last, but we had been nearly an hour 
and a half upon the yard, and it seemed an age. It just struck five 
bells when we went up, and eight were struck soon after we came 
down. This may seem slow work, but considering the state of 
everything, and that we had only five men to a sail with just half 
as many square yards of canvas in it as the mainsail of the Inde- 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 319 

pendence, sixty-gun ship, which musters seven hundred men at her 
quarters, it is not wonderful that we were no quicker about it. We 
were glad enough to get on deck, and still more, to go below. The 
oldest sailor in the watch said, as he went down, — "I shall never 
forget that main yard; — it beats all my going a fishing. Fun is fun, 
but furling one yard-arm of a course, at a time, off Cape Horn, is 
no better than man-kilUng." 

During the greater part of the next two days, the vwnd was pretty 
steady from the southward. We had evidently made great progress, 
and had good hope of being soon up with the Cape, if we were 
not there already. We could put but little confidence in our reck- 
oning, as there had been no opportunities for an observation, and 
we had drifted too much to allow of our dead reckoning being any- 
where near the mark. If it would clear off enough to give a chance 
for an observation, or if we could make land, we should know where 
we were; and upon these, and the chances of falling in with a sail 
from the eastward, we depended almost entirely. 

Friday, July 22d. This day we had a steady gale from the south- 
ward, and stood on under close sail, with the yards eased a little 
by the weather braces, the clouds lifting a little, and showing signs 

of breaking away. In the afternoon, I was below with Mr. H , 

the third mate, and two others, filling the bread locker in the steer- 
age from the casks, when a bright gleam of sunshine broke out and 
shone down the companion-way and through the sky-light, lighting 
up everything below, and sending a warm glow through the heart 
of every one. It was a sight we had not seen for weeks, — an omen, 
a god-send. Even the roughest and hardest face acknowledged its 
influence. Just at that moment we heard a loud shout from all parts 
of the deck, and the mate called out down the companion-way to 
the captain, who was sitting in the cabin. What he said, we could 
not distinguish, but the captain kicked over his chair, and was 
on deck at one jump. We could not tell what it was; and, anxious 
as we were to know, the discipline of the ship would not allow of 
our leaving our places. Yet, as we were not called, we knew there 
was no danger. We hurried to get through with our job, when, 

seeing the steward's black face peering out of the pantry, Mr. H 

hailed him, to know what was the matter. "Lan' o, to be sure, sir! 



320 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

No you hear 'em sing out, 'Lan' o?' De cap'em say 'im Cape 
Horn!" 

This gave us a new start, and we were soon through our work, 
and on deck; and there lay the land, fair upon the larboard beam, 
and slowly edging away upon the quarter. All hands were busy 
looking at it, — the captain and mates from the quarter-deck, the cook 
from his galley, and the sailors from the forecastle; and even Mr. N., 
the passenger, who had kept in his shell for nearly a month, and 
hardly been seen by anybody, and who we had almost forgotten was 
on board, came out like a butterfly, and was hopping round as 
bright as a bird. 

The land was the island of Staten Land, and, just to the eastward 
of Cape Horn; and a more desolate-looking spot I never wish to 
set eyes upon; — bare, broken, and girt with rocks and ice, with 
here and there, between the rocks and broken hillocks, a little 
stunted vegetation of shrubs. It was a place well suited to stand at 
the junction of the two oceans, beyond the reach of human cultiva- 
tion, and encounter the blasts and snows of a perpetual winter. Yet, 
dismal as it was, it was a pleasant sight to us; not only as being 
the first land we had seen, but because it told us that we had passed 
the Cape, — were in the Atlantic, — and that, with twenty-four hours 
of this breeze, might bid defiance to the Southern Ocean. It told us, 
too, our latitude and longitude better than any observation; and 
the captain now knew where we were, as well as if we were off the 
end of Long wharf. 

In the general joy, Mr. N. said he should like to go ashore upon 
the island and examine a spot which probably no human being had 
ever set foot upon; but the captain intimated that he would see the 
island — specimens and all, — in — another place, before he would get 
out a boat or delay the ship one moment for him. 

We left the land gradually astern; and at sundown had the 
Atlantic Ocean clear before us. 



CHAPTER XXXIII 

Cracking on — Progress Homeward — A Pleasant Sunday — 
A Fine Sight — By-Play 

IT IS usual, in voyages round the Cape from the Pacific, to keep 
to the eastward of the Falkland Islands; but as it had now set 
in a strong, steady, and clear south-wester, with every prospect 
of its lasting, and we had had enough of high latitudes, the captain 
determined to stand immediately to the northward, running inside 
the Falkland Islands. Accordingly, when the wheel was relieved 
at eight o'clock, the order was given to keep her due north, and all 
hands were turned up to square away the yards and make sail. In a 
moment, the news ran through the ship that the captain was keeping 
her off, with her nose straight for Boston, and Cape Horn over her 
taffrail. It was a moment of enthusiasm. Every one was on the alert, 
and even the two sick men turned out to lend a hand at the hal- 
yards. The wind was now due south-west, and blowing a gale to 
which a vessel close hauled could have shown no more than a single 
close-reefed sail; but as we were going before it, we could carry on. 
Accordingly, hands were sent aloft, and a reef shaken out of the 
top-sails, and the reefed foresail set. When we came to masthead the 
topsail yards, with all hands at the halyards, we struck up "Cheerily, 
men," with a chorus which might have been heard half-way to 
Staten Land. Under her increased sail, the ship drove on through 
the water. Yet she could bear it well; and the captain sang out 
from the quarter-deck — "Another reef out of that fore-topsail, and 
give it to her!" Two hands sprang aloft; the frozen reef-points 
and eatings were cast adrift, the halyards manned, and the sail gave 
out her increased canvas to the gale. All hands were kept on deck 
to watch the effect of the change. It was as much as she could well 
carry, and with a heavy sea astern, it took two men at the wheel to 
steer her. She flung the foam from her bows; the spray breaking 
aft as far as the gangway. She was going at a prodigious rate. 

321 



322 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

Still, everything held. Preventer braces were reeved and hauled 
taught; tackles got upon the backstays; and each thing done to 
keep all snug and strong. The captain walked the deck at a rapid 
stride, looked aloft at the sails, and then to windward; the mate 
stood in the gangway, rubbing his hands, and talking aloud to the 
ship — "Hurrah, old bucket! the Boston girls have got hold o£ the 
tow-rope!" and the like; and we were on the forecastle, looking to 
see how the spars stood it, and guessing the rate at which she was 
going, — when the captain called out— "Mr. Brown, get up the top- 
mast studding-sail! What she can't carry she may drag!" The mate 
looked a moment; but he would let no one be before him in daring. 
He sprang forward — "Hurrah, men! rig out the topmast studding- 
sail boom! Lay aloft, and I'll send the rigging up to you!" — We 
sprang aloft into the top; lowered a girt-line down, by which we 
hauled up the rigging; rove the tacks and halyards; ran out the 
boom and lashed it fast, and sent down the lower halyards, as a 
preventer. It was a clear starlight night, cold and blowing; but 
everybody worked with a will. Some, indeed, looked as though they 
thought the "old man" was mad, but no one said a word. We had 
had a new topmast studding-sail made with a reef in it, — a thing 
hardly ever heard of, and which the sailors had ridiculed a good 
deal, saying that when it was time to reef a studding-sail, it was 
time to take it in. But we found a use for it now; for, there being a 
reef in the topsail, the studding-sail could not be set without one in it 
also. To be sure, a studding-sail with reefed topsails was rather a 
new thing; yet there was some reason in it, for if we carried that 
away, we should lose only a sail and a boom; but a whole topsail 
might have carried away the mast and all. 

While we were aloft, the sail had been got out, bent to the yard, 
reefed, and ready for hoisting. Waiting for a good opportunity, the 
halyards were manned and the yard hoisted fairly up to the block; 
but when the mate came to shake the catspaw out of the downhaul, 
and we began to boom-end the sail, it shook the ship to her centre. 
The boom buckled up and bent like a whip-stick, and we looked 
every moment to see something go; but, being of the short, tough 
upland spruce, it bent like whalebone, and nothing could break it. 
The carpenter said it was the best stick he had ever seen. The 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 323 

Strength of all hands soon brought the tack to the boom-end, and 
the sheet was trimmed down, and the preventer and the weather 
brace hauled taught to take off the strain. Every rope-yarn seemed 
stretched to the utmost, and every thread of canvas; and wdth this 
sail added to her, the ship sprang through the water like a thing 
possessed. The sail being nearly all forward, it lifted her out of the 
water, and she seemed actually to jump from sea to sea. From the 
time her keel was laid, she had never been so driven; and had it 
been life or death with every one of us, she could not have borne 
another stitch of canvas. 

Finding that she would bear the sail, the hands were sent below, 
and our watch remained on deck. Two men at the wheel had as 
much as they could do to keep her within three points of her course, 
for she steered as wild as a young colt. The mate walked the deck, 
looking at the sails, and then over the side to see the foam fly by 
her, slapping his hands upon his thighs and talking to the ship — 
"Hurrah, you jade, you've got the scent! — you know where you're 
going!" And when she leaped over the seas, and almost out of the 
water, and trembled to her very keel, the spars and masts snapping 
and creaking, — "There she goes! — There she goes, — handsomely! — 
as long as she cracks she holds!" — while we stood with the rigging 
laid down fair for letting go, and ready to take in sail and clear 
away, if anything went. At four bells we hove the log, and she was 
going eleven knots fairly; and had it not been for the sea from aft 
which sent the ship home, and threw her continually off her course, 
the log would have shown her to have been going much faster. I 
went to the wheel with a young fellow from the Kennebec, who was 
a good helmsman; and for two hours we had our hands full. A few 
minutes showed us that our monkey-jackets must come off; and, 
cold as it was, we stood in our shirt-sleeves, in a perspiration; and 
were glad enough to have it eight bells, and the wheel relieved. We 
turned-in and slept as well as we could, though the sea made a con- 
stant roar under her bows, and washed over the forecastle Uke a 
small cataract. 

At four o'clock, we were called again. The same sail was still on 
the vessel, and the gale, if there was any change, had increased a 
little. No attempt was made to take the studding-sail in; and. 



324 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

indeed, it was too late now. If we had started anything toward tak- 
ing it in, either tack or halyards, it would have blown to pieces, and 
carried something away with it. The only way now was to let 
everything stand, and if the gale went down, well and good; if not, 
something must go — the weakest stick or rope first — and then we 
could get it in. For more than an hour she was driven on at such 
a rate that she seemed actually to crowd the sea into a heap before 
her; and the water poured over the spritsail yard as it would over a 
dam. Toward daybreak the gale abated a little, and she was just 
beginning to go more easily along, relieved of the pressure, when 
Mr. Brown, determined to give her no respite, and depending upon 
the wind's subsiding as the sun rose, told us to get along the lower 
studding-sail. This was an immense sail, and held wind enough to 
last a Dutchman a week, — hove-to. It was soon ready, the boom 
topped up, preventer guys rove, and the idlers called up to man the 
halyards; yet such was still the force of the gale, that we were nearly 
an hour setting the sail; carried away the outhaul in doing it, and 
came very near snapping off the swinging boom. No sooner was it 
set than the ship tore on again like one that was mad, and began 
to steer as wild as a hawk. The men at the wheel were puffing and 
blowing at their work, and the helm was going hard up and hard 
down, constantly. Add to this, the gale did not lessen as the day 
came on, but the sun rose in clouds. A sudden lurch threw the man 
from the weather wheel across the deck and against the side. The 
mate sprang to the wheel, and the man, regaining his feet, seized 
the spokes, and they hove the wheel up just in time to save her 
from broaching to; though nearly half the studding-sail went under 
water; and as she came to, the boom stood up at an angle of forty- 
five degrees. She had evidently more on her than she could bear; 
yet it was in vain to try to take it in — ^the clewline was not strong 
enough; and they were thinking of cutting away, when another 
wide yaw and a come-to, snapped the guys, and the swinging boom 
came in, with a crash, against the lower rigging. The outhaul 
block gave way, and the topmast studding-sail boom bent in a man- 
ner which I never before supposed a stick could bend. I had my eye 
on it when the guys parted, and it made one spring and buckled up 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 325 

SO as to form nearly a half circle, and sprang out again to its shape. 
The clewline gave way at the first pull; the cleat to which the hal- 
yards were belayed was wrenched off, and the sail blew round the 
spritsail yards and head guys, which gave us a bad job to get it in. 
A half hour served to clear all away, and she was suffered to drive 
on with her topmast studding-sail set, it being as much as she could 
stagger under. 

During all this day and the next night, we went on under the same 
sail, the gale blowing with undiminished force; two men at the 
wheel all the time; watch and watch, and nothing to do but to steer 
and look out for the ship, and be blown along; — until the noon of 
the next day — 

Sunday, July 2/}th, when we were in latitude 50° 27' S., longitude 
62° 13' W., having made four degrees of latitude in the last 
twenty-four hours. Being now to northward of the Falkland 
Islands, the ship was kept off, north-east, for the equator; and with 
her head for the equator, and Cape Horn over her taffrail, she went 
gloriously on; every heave of the sea leaving the Cape astern, and 
every hour bringing us nearer to home, and to warm weather. Many 
a time, when blocked up in the ice, with everything dismal and 
discouraging about us, had we said, — if we were only fairly round, 
and standing north on the other side, we should ask for no more: — 
and now we had it all, with a clear sea, and as much wind as a 
sailor could pray for. If the best part of the voyage is the last part, 
surely we had all now that we could wish. Every one was in the 
highest spirits, and the ship seemed as glad as any of us at getting 
out of her confinement. At each change of the watch, those coming 
on deck asked those going below — "How does she go along?" and 
got for answer, the rate, and the customary addition — "Aye! and the 
Boston girls have had hold of the tow-rope all the watch, and can't 
haul half the slack in!" Each day the sun rose higher in the horizon, 
and the nights grew shorter; and at coming on deck each morning, 
there was a sensible change in the temperature. The ice, too, began 
to melt from off the rigging and spars, and, except a little which 
remained in the tops and round the hounds of the lower masts, was 
soon gone. As we left the gale behind us, the reefs were shaken out 



326 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

of the topsails, and sail made as fast as she could bear it; and every 
time all hands were sent to the halyards, a song was called for, and 
we hoisted away with a will. 

Sail after sail was added, as we drew into fine weather; and in 
one week after leaving Cape Horn, the long topgallant masts were 
got up, topgallant and royal yards crossed, and the ship restored to 
her fair proportions. 

The Southern Cross we saw no more after the first night; the 
Magellan Clouds settled lower and lower in the horizon; and so 
great was our change of latitude each succeeding night, that we 
sank some constellation in the south, and raised another in the 
northern horizon. 

Sunday, July ^ist. At noon we were in lat. 36° 41' S., long. 38° 08' 
W.; having traversed the distance of two thousand miles, allowing 
for changes of course, in nine days. A thousand miles in four days 
and a half! — This is equal to steam. 

Soon after eight o'clock, the appearance of the ship gave evidence 
that this was the first Sunday we had yet had in fine weather. As 
the sun came up clear, with the promise of a fair, warm day, and, as 
usual on Sunday, there was no work going on, all hands turned-to 
upon clearing out the forecastle. The wet and soiled clothes which 
had accumulated there during the past month, were brought up on 
deck; the chests moved; brooms, buckets of water, swabs, scrubbing- 
brushes, and scrapers carried down, and applied, until the forecastle 
floor was as white as chalk, and everything neat and in order. The 
bedding from the berths was then spread on deck, and dried, and 
aired; the deck-tub filled with water; and a grand washing begun 
of all the clothes which were brought up. Shirts, frocks, drawers, 
trowsers, jackets, stockings, of every shape and color, wet and dirty 
— many of them mouldy from having been lying a long time wet 
in a foul corner — these were all washed and scrubbed out, and 
finally towed overboard for half an hour; and then made fast in 
the rigging to dry. Wet boots and shoes were spread out to dry 
in sunny places on deck; and the whole ship looked like a back yard 
on a washing day. After we had done with our clothes, we began 
upon our own persons. A little fresh water, which we had saved 
from our allowance, was put in buckets, and with soap and towels. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 327 

we had what sailors call a fresh-water wash. The same bucket, to 
be sure, had to go through several hands, and was spoken for by 
one after another, but as we rinsed o£E in salt water, pure from 
the ocean, and the fresh was used only to start the accumulated 
grime and blackness of five weeks, it was held of little consequence. 
We soaped down and scrubbed one another with towels and pieces 
of canvas, stripping to it; and then, getting into the head, threw 
buckets of water upon each other. After this, came shaving, and 
combing, and brushing; and when, having spent the first part of 
the day in this way, we sat down on the forecastle, in the afternoon, 
with clean duck trowsers, and shirts on, washed, shaved, and 
combed, and looking a dozen shades lighter for it, reading, sewing, 
and talking at our ease, with a clear sky and warm sun over our 
heads, a steady breeze over the larboard quarter, studding-sails out 
alow and aloft, and all the flying kites aboard; — we felt that we 
had got back into the pleasantest part of a sailor's life. At sundown 
the clothes were all taken down from the rigging — clean and dry — 
and stowed neatly away in our chests; and our south westers, thick 
boots, guernsey frocks, and other accompaniments of bad weather, 
put out of the way, we hoped, for the rest of the voyage, as we 
expected to come upon the coast early in the autumn. 

Notwithstanding all that has been said about the beauty of a 
ship under full sail, there are very few who have ever seen a ship, 
literally, under all her sail. A ship coming in or going out of port, 
with her ordinary sails, and perhaps two of three studding-sails, is 
commonly said to be under full sail; but a ship never has all her 
sail upon her, except when she has a light, steady breeze, very 
nearly, but not quite, dead aft, and so regular that it can be trusted, 
and is likely to last for some time. Then, with all her sails, light 
and heavy, and studding-sails, on each side, alow and aloft, she is 
the most glorious moving object in the world. Such a sight, very 
few, even some who have been at sea a great deal, have ever beheld; 
for from the deck of your own vessel you cannot see her, as you 
would a separate object. 

One night, while we were in these tropics, I went out to the end 
of the flying-jib-boom, upon some duty, and, having finished it, 
turned round, and lay over the boom for a long time, admiring the 



328 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

beauty of the sight before me. Being so far out from the deck, I 
could look at the ship, as at a separate vessel; — and there rose up 
from the water, supported only by the small black hull, a pyramid 
of canvas, spreading out far beyond the hull, and towering up 
almost, as it seemed in the indistinct night air, to the clouds. The 
sea was as still as an inland lake; the light trade-wind was gently 
and steadily breathing from astern; the dark blue sky was studded 
with the tropical stars; there was no sound but the rippling of 
the water under the stem; and the sails were spread out, wide and 
high; — the two lower studding-sails stretching, on each side, far 
beyond the deck; the topmast studding-sails, like wings to the 
topsails; the top-gallant studding-sails spreading fearlessly out above 
them; still higher, the two royal studding-sails, looking like two 
kites flying from the same string; and, highest of all, the little sky- 
sail, the apex of the pyramid, seeming actually to touch the stars, 
and to be out of reach of human hand. So quiet, too, was the sea, 
and so steady the breeze, that if these sails had been sculptured 
marble, they could not have been more motionless. Not a ripple 
upon the surface of the canvas; not even a quivering of the extreme 
edges of the sail — so perfectly were they distended by the breeze. I 
was so lost in the sight, that I forgot the presence of the man who 
came out with me, until he said, (for he, too, rough old man-of- 
war's-man as he was, had been gazing at the show,) half to him- 
self, still looking at the marble sails — "How quietly they do their 
work!" 

The fine weather brought work with it, as the ship was to be put 
in order for coming into port. This may give a landsman some 
notion of what is done on board ship. — All the first part of a passage 
is spent in getting a ship ready for sea, and the last part in getting 
her ready for port. She is, as sailors say, like a lady's watch, always 
out of repair. The new, strong sails, which we had up off Cape 
Horn, were to be sent down, and the old set, which were still 
serviceable in fine weather, to be bent in their place; all the rigging 
to be set up, fore and aft; the masts stayed; the standing rigging to 
be tarred down; lower and topmast rigging rattled down, fore and 
aft; the ship scraped, inside and out, and painted; decks varnished; 
new and neat knots, seizings and coverings to be fitted; and every 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 329 

part put in order, to look well to the owner's eye, on coming into 
Boston. This, of course, was a long matter; and all hands were kept 
on deck at work for the whole of each day, during the rest of the 
voyage. Sailors call this hard usage; but the ship must be in crack 
order, and "we're homeward bound" was the answer to everything. 

We went on for several days, employed in this way, nothing 
remarkable occurring; and, at the latter part of the week, fell in 
with the south-east trades, blowing about east-south-east, which 
brought them nearly two points abaft our beam. These blew strong 
and steady, so that we hardly started a rope, until we were beyond 
their latitude. The first day of "all hands," one of those little 
incidents occurred, which are nothing in- themselves, but are great 
matters in the eyes of a ship's company, as they serve to break the 
monotony of a voyage, and afford conversation to the crew for days 
afterwards. These small matters, too, are often interesting, as they 
show the customs and state of feeling on shipboard. 

In merchant vessels, the captain gives his orders as to the ship's 
work, to the mate, in a general way, and leaves the execution of 
them, with the particular ordering, to him. This has become so fixed 
a custom, that it is like a law, and is never infringed upon by a 
wise master, unless his mate is no seaman; in which case, the captain 
must often oversee things for himself. This, however, could not be 
said of our chief mate; and he was very jealous of any encroach- 
ment upon the borders of his authority. 

On Monday morning, the captain told him to stay the fore-topmast 
plumb. He accordingly came forward, turned all hands to, with 
tackles on the stays and back-stays, coming up with the seizings, 
hauling here, belaying there, and full of business, standing between 
the knightheads to sight the mast, — when the captain came forward, 
and also began to give orders. This made confusion, and the mate, 
finding that he was all aback, left his place and went aft, saying 
to the captain — 

"If you come forward, sir, I'll go aft. One is enough on the fore- 
castle." 

This produced a reply, and another fierce answer; and the words 
flew, fists were doubled up, and things looked threateningly. 

"I'm master of this ship." 



330 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

"Yes, sir, and I'm mate of her, and know my place! My place is 
forward, and yours is aft!" 

"My place is where I choose! I command the whole ship; and 
you are mate only so long as I choose!" 

"Say the word, Capt. T., and I'm done! I can do a man's work 
aboard! I didn't come through the cabin windows! If I'm not 
mate, I can be man," etc., etc. 

This was all fun for us, who stood by, winking at each other, and 
enjoying the contest between the higher powers. The captain took 
the mate aft; and they had a long talk, which ended in the mate's 
returning to his duty. The captain had broken through a custom, 
which is a part of the common-law of a ship, and without reason; 
for he knew that his mate was a sailor, and needed no help from 
him; and the mate was excusable for being angry. Yet he was 
wrong, and the captain right. Whatever the captain does is right, 
ipso facto, and any opposition to it is wrong, on board ship; and 
every officer and man knows this when he signs the ship's articles. 
It is a part of the contract. Yet there has grown up in merchant 
vessels a series of customs, which have become a well understood 
system, and have almost the force of prescriptive law. To be sure, 
all power is in the captain, and the officers hold their authority 
only during his will; and the men are liable to be called upon for 
any service; yet, by breaking in upon these usages, many difficulties 
have occurred on board ship, and even come into courts of justice, 
which are perfectly unintelligible to any one not acquainted with 
the universal nature and force of these customs. Many a provocation 
has been offered, and a system of petty oppression pursued towards 
men, the force and meaning of which would appear as nothing to 
strangers, and doubtless do appear so to many " 'long-shore" juries 
and judges. 

The next little diversion, was a battle on the forecastle one after- 
noon, between the mate and the steward. They had been on bad 
terms the whole voyage; and had threatened a rupture several 
times. This afternoon, the mate asked him for a tumbler of water, 
and he refused to get it for him, saying that he waited upon nobody 
but the captain: and here he had the custom on his side. But in 
answering, he left off "the handle to the mate's name." This 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 33 1 

enraged the mate, who called him a "black soger;" and at it they 
went, clenching, striking, and rolling over and over; while we 
stood by, looking on, and enjoying the fun. The darky tried to 
butt him, but the mate got him down, and held him, the steward 
singing out, "Let me go, Mr. Brown, or there'll be blood spilt!" In 
the midst of this, the captain came on deck, separated them, took 
the steward aft, and gave him half a dozen with a rope's end. 
The steward tried to justify himself; but he had been heard to talk 
of spilling blood, and that was enough to earn him his flogging; 
and the captain did not choose to inquire any further. 



CHAPTER XXXIV 

Narrow Escapes — The Equator — Tropical Squalls — A Thunder 

Storm 

THE same day, I met with one of those narrow escapes, 
which are so often happening in a sailor's Ufe. I had been 
aloft nearly all the afternoon, at work, standing for as 
much as an hour on the fore top-gallant yard, which was hoisted 
up, and hung only by the tie; when, having got through my work, 
I balled up my yarns, took my serving-board in my hand, laid 
hold deliberately of the top-gallant rigging, took one foot from the 
yard, and was just lifting the other, when the tie parted, and down 
the yard fell. I was safe, by my hold upon the rigging, but it made 
my heart beat quick. Had the tie parted one instant sooner, or 
had I stood an instant longer on the yard, I should inevitably have 
been thrown violently from the height of ninety or a hundred feet, 
overboard; or, what is worse, upon the deck. However, "a miss 
is as good as a mile;" a saying which sailors very often have occasion 
to use. An escape is always a joke on board ship, A man would be 
ridiculed who should make a serious matter of it. A sailor knows 
too well that his life hangs upon a thread, to wish to be always 
reminded of it; so, if a man has an escape, he keeps it to himself, 
or makes a joke of it. I have often known a man's life to be saved 
by an instant of time, or by the merest chance, — the swinging of a 
rope, — and no notice taken of it. One of our boys, when off Cape 
Horn, reefing topsails of a dark night, and when there were no 
boats to be lowered away, and where, if a man fell overboard he 
must be left behind, — lost his hold of the reef-point, slipped from 
the foot-rope, and would have been in the water in a moment, 
when the man who was next to him on the yard caught him by the 
collar of his jacket, and hauled him up upon the yard, with — "Hold 

on, another time, you young monkey, and be d d to you!" — and 

that was all that was heard about it. 

332 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 335 

Sunday, August yth. Lat. 25° 59' S., long. 27° 0' W. Spoke the 
English bark Mary-Catherine, from Bahia, bound to Calcutta. This, 
was the first sail we had fallen in with, and the first time we had 
seen a human form or heard the human voice, except of our own 
number, for nearly a hundred days. The very yo-ho-ing of the sailors 
at the ropes sounded sociably upon the ear. She was an old, 
damaged-looking craft, with a high poop and top-gallant forecastle, 
and sawed off square, stem and stern, like a true English "tea- 
wagon," and with a run like a sugar-box. She had studding-sails 
out alow and aloft, with a light but steady breeze, and her captain 
said he could not get more than four knots out of her and thought 
he should have a long passage. We were going six on an easy 
bowline. 

The next day, about three P. M., passed a large corvette-built ship, 
close upon the wind, with royals and skysails set fore and aft, under 
English colors. She was standing south-by-east, probably bound 
round Cape Horn. She had men in her tops, and black mast-heads; 
heavily sparred, with sails cut to a t, and other marks of a man-of- 
war. She sailed well, and presented a fine appearance; the proud, 
aristocratic-looking banner of St. George, the cross in a blood-red 
field, waving from the mizen. We probably were as fine a sight, 
with our studding-sails spread far out beyond the ship on either 
side, and rising in a pyramid to royal studding-sails and sky-sails, 
burying the hull in canvas, and looking like what the whale-men on 
the Banks, under their stump top-gallant masts, call "a Cape Horn-er 
under a cloud of sail." 

Friday, August 12th. At daylight made the island of Trinidad, 
situated in lat. 20° 28' S., long. 29° 08' W. At twelve M., it bore 
N. W. Yz N., distant twenty-seven miles. It was a beautiful 
day, the sea hardly ruffled by the light trades, and the island 
looking like a small blue mound rising from a field of glass. 
Such a fair and peaceful-looking spot is said to have been, for 
a long time, the resort of a band of pirates, who ravaged the trop- 
ical seas. 

Thursday, August 18th. At three P. M., made the island of Fer- 
nando Naronha, lying in lat. 3° 55' S., long. 32° 35' W.; and be- 
tween twelve o'clock Friday night and one o'clock Saturday mornings 



334 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

crossed the equator, for the fourth time since leaving Boston, in 
long. 35° W.; having been twenty-seven days from Staten Land — 
a distance, by the courses we had made, of more than four thousand 
miles. 

We were now to the northward of the line, and every day added 
to our latitude. The Magellan Clouds, the last sign of South latitude, 
were sunk in the horizon, and the north star, the Great Bear, and 
the familiar signs of northern latitudes, were rising in the heavens. 
Next to seeing land, there is no sight which makes one realize more 
that he is drawing near home, than to see the same heavens, under 
which he was born, shining at night over his head. The weather 
was extremely hot, with the usual tropical alternations of a scorching 
sun and squalls of rain; yet not a word was said in complaint of the 
heat, for we all remembered that only three or four weeks before 
we would have given nearly our all to have been where we now 
were. We had plenty of water, too, which we caught by spreading 
an awning, with shot thrown in to make hollows. These rain 
squalls came up in the manner usual between the tropics. — A clear 
sky; burning, vertical sun; work going lazily on, and men about 
■decks with nothing but duck trowsers, checked shirts, and straw 
hats; the ship moving as lazily through the water; the man at the 
helm resting against the wheel, with his hat drawn over his eyes; 
the captain below, taking an afternoon nap; the passenger leaning 
over the taflrail, watching a dolphin following slowly in our wake; 
the sailmaker mending an old topsail on the lee side of the quarter- 
deck; the carpenter working at his bench, in the waist; the boys 
making sinnet; the spun-yarn winch whizzing round and round, 
and the men walking slowly fore and aft with their yarns. — ^A 
cloud rises to windward, looking a little black; the sky-sails are 
brailed down; the captain puts his head out of the companion-way, 
looks at the cloud, comes up, and begins to walk the deck. — The 
cloud spreads and comes on; — the tub of yarns, the sail, and other 
matters, are thrown below, and the sky-light and booby-hatch put 
on, and the slide drawn over the forecastle. — "Stand by the royal 
halyards;" — the man at the wheel keeps a good weather helm, so 
as not to be taken aback. The squall strikes her. If it is light, the 
royal yards are clewed down, and the ship keeps on her way; but 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 335 

if the squall takes strong hold, the royals are clewed up, fore and 
aft; light hands lay aloft and furl them; top-gallant yards clewed 
down, flying-jib hauled down, and the ship kept off before it, — the 
man at the helm laying out his strength to heave the wheel up to 
windward. At the same time a drenching rain, which soaks one 
through in an instant. Yet no one puts on a jacket or cap; for if it 
is only warm, a sailor does not mind a ducking; and the sun will 
soon be out again. As soon as the force of the squall has passed, 
though to a common eye the ship would seem to be in the midst 
of it, — "Keep her up to her course, again!" — ^"Keep her up, sir," 
(answer); — "Hoist away the top-gallant yards!" — ^"Run up the fly- 
ing jib!" — "Lay aloft, you boys, and loose the royals!" — and all sail is 
on her again before she is fairly out of the squall; and she is going on 
in her course. The sun comes out once more, hotter than ever, 
dries up the decks and the sailors' clothes; the hatches are taken 
off; the sail got up and spread on the quarter-deck; spun-yarn 
winch set a whirling again; rigging coiled up; captain goes below; 
and every sign of an interruption is removed. 

These scenes, with occasional dead calms, lasting for hours, and 
sometimes for days, are fair specimens of the Atlantic tropics. The 
nights were fine; and as we had all hands all day, the watch were 
allowed to sleep on deck at night, except the man at the wheel, and 
one look-out on the forecastle. This was not so much expressly 
allowed, as winked at. We could do it if we did not ask leave. If 
the look-out was caught napping, the whole watch was kept awake. 
We made the most of this permission, and stowed ourselves away 
upon the rigging, under the weather rail, on the spars, under the 
windlass, and in all the snug corners; and frequently slept out the 
watch, unless we had a wheel or a look-out. And we were glad 
enough to get this rest; for under the "all hands" system, out of 
every other thirty-six hours, we had only four below; and even an 
hour's sleep was a gain not to be neglected. One would have thought 
so, to have seen our watch, some nights, sleeping through a heavy 
rain. And often have we come on deck, and finding a dead calm 
and a light, steady rain, and determined not to lose our sleep, have 
laid a coil of rigging down so as to keep us out of the water which 
was washing about decks, and stowed ourselves away upon it, 



336 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

covering a jacket over us, and slept as soundly as a Dutchman be- 
tween two feather beds. 

For a week or ten days after crossing the line, we had the usual 
variety of calms, squalls, head winds, and fair winds; — at one 
time braced sharp upon the wind, with a taught bowline, and in 
an hour after, slipping quietly along, with a light breeze over the 
taffrail, and studding-sails out on both sides; — until we fell in with 
the north-east trade-winds; which we did on the afternoon of 

Sunday, August 28th, in lat. 12° N. The trade-wind clouds had 
been in sight for a day or two previously, and we expected to take 
them every hour. The light southerly breeze, which had been 
blowing languidly during the first part of the day, died away 
toward noon, and in its place came puffs from the north-east, 
which caused us to take our studding-sails in and brace up; and in 
a couple of hours more, we were bowling gloriously along, dashing 
the spray far ahead and to leeward, with the cool, steady north-east 
trades, freshening up the sea, and giving us as much as we could 
carry our royals to. These winds blew strong and steady, keeping 
us generally upon a bowline, as our course was about north-north- 
west; and sometimes, as they veered a little to the eastward, giving 
us a chance at a main top-gallant studding-sail; and sending us well 
to the northward, until — 

Sunday, Sept. 4th, when they left us, in lat. 22° N., long. 51° W., 
directly under the tropic of Cancer. 

For several days we lay "humbugging about" in the Horse lati- 
tudes, with all sorts of winds and weather, and occasionally, as we 
were in the latitude of the West Indies — a thunder storm. It was 
hurricane month, too, and we were just in the track of the tremen- 
dous hurricane of 1830, which swept the North Atlantic, destroying 
almost everything before it. The first night after the tradewinds 
left us, while we were in the latitude of the island of Cuba, we had 
a specimen of a true tropical thunder storm. A light breeze had been 
blowing directly from aft during the first part of the night which 
gradually died away, and before midnight it was dead calm, and a 
heavy black cloud had shrouded the whole sky. When our watch 
came on deck at twelve o'clock, it was as black as Erebus; the 
studding-sails were all taken in, and the royals furled; not a breath 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 337 

was stirring; the sails hung heavy and motionless from the yards; 
and the perfect stillness, and the darkness, which was almost 
palpable, were truly appalling. Not a word was spoken, but every 
one stood as though waiting for something to happen. In a few 
minutes the mate came forward, and in a low tone, which was 
almost a whisper, told us to haul down the jib. The fore and 
mizen top-gallant sails were taken in, in the same silent manner; 
and we lay motionless upon the water, with an uneasy expectation, 
which, from the long suspense, became actually painful. We could 
hear the captain walking the deck, but it was too dark to see any- 
thing more than one's hand before the face. Soon the mate came 
forward again, and gave an order, in a low tone, to clew up the 
main top-gallant sail; and so infectious was the awe and silence, 
that the clewlines and buntlines were hauled up without any of 
the customary singing out at the ropes. An English lad and myself 
went up to furl it; and we had just got the bunt up, when the mate 
called out to us, something, we did not hear what, — but supposing it 
to be an order to bear-a-hand, we hurried, and made all fast, and 
came down, feeling our way among the rigging. When we got down 
we found all hands looking aloft, and there, directly over where we 
had been standing, upon the main top-gallant-mast-head, was a ball 
of light, which the sailors name a corposant (corpus sancti), and 
which the mate had called out to us to look at. They were all 
watching it carefully, for sailors have a notion that if the corposant 
rises in the rigging, it is a sign of fair weather, but if it comes lower 
down, there will be a storm. Unfortunately, as an omen, it came 
down, and showed itself on the top-gallant yard-arm. We were off 
the yard in good season, for it is held a fatal sign to have the pale 
light of the corposant thrown upon one's face. As it was, the English 
lad did not feel comfortably at having had it so near him, and 
directly over his head. In a few minutes it disappeared, and showed 
itself again on the fore top-gallant yard; and after playing about 
for some time, disappeared again; when the man on the forecastle 
pointed to it upon the flying-jib-boom-end. But our attention was 
drawn from watching this, by the falling of some drops of rain and 
by a perceptible increase of the darkness, which seemed suddenly to 
add a new shade of blackness to the night. In a few minutes, low, 



338 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

grumbling thunder was heard, and some random flashes of lightning 
came from the south-west. Every sail was taken in but the topsails, 
still, no squall appeared to be coming. A few puffs lifted the topsails, 
but they fell again to the mast, and all was as still as ever. A moment 
more, and a terrific flash and peal broke simultaneously upon us, 
and a cloud appeared to open directly over our heads and let down 
the water in one body, like a falling ocean. We stood motionless, 
and almost stupefied; yet nothing had been struck. Peal after peal 
rattled over our heads, vwth a sound which seemed actually to stop 
the breath in the body, and the "speedy gleams" kept the whole 
ocean in a glare of light. The violent fall of rain lasted but a few 
minutes, and was succeeded by occasional drops and showers; but 
the lightning continued incessant for several hours, breaking the 
midnight darkness with irregular and blinding flashes. During all 
which time there was not a breath stirring, and we lay motionless, 
like a mark to be shot at, probably the only object on the surface of 
the ocean for miles and miles. We stood hour after hour, until our 
watch was out, and we were relieved, at four o'clock. During all 
this time, hardly a word was spoken; no bells were struck, and the 
wheel was silently relieved. The rain fell at intervals in heavy 
showers, and we stood drenched through and blinded by the flashes, 
which broke the Egyptian darkness with a brightness which seemed 
almost malignant; while the thunder rolled in peals, the concussion 
of which appeared to shake the very ocean. A ship is not often 
injured by lightning, for the electricity is separated by the great 
number of points she presents, and the quantity of iron which she 
has scattered in various parts. The electric fluid ran over our 
anchors, top-sail sheets and ties; yet no harm was done to us. We 
went below at four o'clock, leaving things in the same state. It 
is not easy to sleep, when the very next flash may tear the ship in 
two, or set her on fire; or where the deathlike calm may be broken 
by the blast of a hurricane, taking the masts out of the ship. But 
a man is no sailor if he cannot sleep when he turns-in, and turn out 
when he's called. And when, at seven bells, the customary "All 
the larboard watch, ahoy!" brought us on deck, it was a fine, clear, 
sunny morning, the ship going leisurely along, with a good breeze 
and all sail set. 



CHAPTER XXXV 

A Double Reef-top-sail Breeze — Scurvy — A Friend in Need — 
Preparing for Port — The Gulf Stream 

FROM the latitude of the West Indies, until we got inside the 
Bermudas, where we took the westerly and south-westerly 
winds, which blow steadily off the coast of the United States 
early in the autumn, we had every variety of weather, and two or 
three moderate gales, or, as sailors call them, double-reef-topsail 
breezes, which came on in the usual manner, and of which one is 
a specimen of all. — A fine afternoon; all hands at work, some in the 
rigging, and others on deck; a sti£E breeze, and ship close upon the 
wind, and skysails brailed down. — Latter part of the afternoon, 
breeze increases, ship lies over to it, and clouds look windy. Spray 
begins to fly over the forecastle, and wets the yarns the boys are 
knotting; — ^ball them up and put them below. — Mate knocks oS 
work and clears up decks earlier than usual, and orders a man who 
has been employed aloft to send the royal halyards over to wind- 
ward, as he comes down. Breast backstays hauled taught, and tackle 
got upon the martingale back-rope. — One of the boys furls the mizen 
royal. — Cook thinks there is going to be "nasty work," and has 
supper ready early. — Mate gives orders to get supper by the watch, 
instead of all hands, as usual. — While eating supper, hear the watch 
on deck taking in the royals. — Coming on deck, find it is blowing 
harder, and an ugly head sea is running. — Instead of having all 
hands on the forecastle in the dog watch, smoking, singing, and 
telling yarns, one watch goes below and turns-in, saying that it's 
going to be an ugly night, and two hours' sleep is not to be lost. 
Clouds look black and wild; wind rising, and ship working hard 
against a heavy sea, which breaks over the forecastle, and washes 
aft through the scuppers. Still, no more sail is taken in, for the 
captain is a driver, and, like all drivers, very partial to his top-gallant 
sails. A top-gallant sail, too, makes the difference between a breeze 

339 



340 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

and a gale. When a top-gallant sail is on a ship, it is only a breeze, 
though I have seen ours set over a reefed topsail, when half the 
bowsprit was under water, and it was up to a man's knees in the 
scuppers. At eight bells, nothing is said about reefing the topsails, 
and the watch go below, with orders to "stand by for a call." We 
turn-in, growling at the "old man" for not reefing the topsails when 
the watch was changed, but putting it off so as to call all hands, and 
break up a whole watch below. Turn-in "all standing," and keep 
ourselves awake, saying there is no use in going asleep to be waked 
up again. — Wind whistles on deck, and ship works hard, groaning 
and creaking, and pitching into a heavy head sea, which strikes 
against the bows, with a noise like knocking upon a rock. — The 
dim lamp in the forecastle swings to and fro, and things "fetch 
away" and go over to leeward. — "Doesn't that booby of a second 
mate ever mean to take in his top-gallant sails? — He'll have the 
sticks out of her soon," says old Bill, who was always growling, 
and, like most old sailors, did not like to see a ship abused. — By- 
and-by an order is given — "Aye, aye, sir!" from the forecastle; — 
rigging is heaved down on deck; — the noise of a sail is heard flutter- 
ing aloft, and the short, quick cry which sailors make when hauling 
upon clewlines. — "Here comes his fore-top-gallant sail in!" — We are 
wide awake, and know all that's going on as well as if we were on 
deck. — A well-known voice is heard from the mast-head singing out 
the officer of the watch to haul taught the weather brace. — "Hallo! 

There's S aloft to furl the sail!" — Next thing, rigging is heaved 

down directly over our heads, and a long-drawn cry and a rattling 
of hanks announce that the flying-jib has come in. — The second 
mate holds on to the main top-gallant sail until a heavy sea is 
shipped, and washes over the forecastle as though the whole ocean 
had come aboard; when a noise further aft shows that that sail, too, 
is taking in. After this, the ship is more easy for a time; two bells 
are struck, and we try to get a little sleep. By-and-by, — bang, bang, 
bang, on the scuttle — ^"All ha-a-ands, a ho-o-y!" — We spring out of 
our berths, clap on a monkey-jacket and south-wester, and tumble up 
the ladder. — Mate up before us, and on the forecastle, singing out 
like a roaring bull; the captain singing out on the quarter-deck, and 
the second mate yelling, like a hyena, in the waist. The ship is 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 34 1 

lying over half upon her beam-ends; lee scuppers under water, and 
forecastle all in a smother of foam. — Rigging all let go, and washing 
about decks; topsail yards down upon the caps, and sails flapping 
and beating against the masts; and starboard watch hauling out 
the reef-tackles of the main topsail. Our watch haul out the fore, 
and lay aloft and put two reefs into it, and reef the foresail, and 
race with the starboard watch, to see which will mast-head its 
topsail first. All hands tally-on to the main tack, and while some 
are furling the jib, and hoisting the staysail, we mizen-topmen 
double-reef the mizen topsail and hoist it up. All being made fast 
— "Go below, the watch!" and we turn-in to sleep out the rest of the 
time, which is perhaps an hour and a half. During all the middle, 
and for the first part of the morning watch, it blows as hard as 
ever, but toward daybreak it moderates considerably, and we shake 
a reef out of each topsail, and set the top-gallant sails over them 
and when the watch come up, at seven bells, for breakfast, shake 
the other reefs out, turn all hands to upon the halyards, get the 
watch-tackle upon the top-gallant sheets and halyards, set the flying- 
jib, and crack on to her again. 

Our captain had been married only a few weeks before he left 
Boston; and, after an absence of over two years, it may be supposed 
he was not slow in carrying sail. The mate, too, was not to be 
beaten by anybody; and the second mate, though he was afraid to 
press sail, was afraid as death of the captain, and being between two 
fears, sometimes carried on longer than any of them. We snapped 
off three flying-jib booms in twenty-four hours, as fast as they could 
be fitted and rigged out; sprung the spritsail yard; and made 
nothing of studding-sail booms. Beside the natural desire to get 
home, we had another reason for urging the ship on. The scurvy 
had begun to show itself on board. One man had it so badly as 
to be disabled and off duty, and the English lad, Ben, was in a 
dreadful state, and was daily growing worse. His legs swelled and 
pained him so that he could not walk; his flesh lost its elasticity, so 
that if it was pressed in, it would not return to its shape; and his 
gums swelled until he could not open his mouth. His breath, too, 
became very offensive; he lost all strength and spirit; could eat 
nothing; grew worse every day; and, in fact, unless something 



342 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

was done for him, would be a dead man in a week, at the rate at 
which he was sinking. The medicines were all, or nearly all, gone; 
and if we had had a chest-full, they would have been of no use; for 
nothing but fresh provisions and terra firma has any effect upon the 
scurvy. This disease is not so common now as formerly; and is 
attributed generally to salt provisions, want of cleanliness, the free 
use of grease and fat (which is the reason of its prevalence among 
whalemen,) and, last of all, to laziness. It never could have been 
from the latter cause on board our ship; nor from the second, for 
we were a very cleanly crew, kept our forecastle in neat order, and 
were more particular about washing and changing clothes than 
many better-dressed people on shore. It was probably from having 
none but salt provisions, and possibly from our having run very 
rapidly into hot weather, after having been so long in the extremest 
cold. 

Depending upon the westerly winds, which prevail off the coast in 
the autumn, the captain stood well to the westward, to run inside 
of the Bermudas, and in the hope of falling in with some vessel 
bound to the West Indies or the Southern States. The scurvy had 
spread no farther among the crew, but there was danger that it 
might; and these cases were bad ones. 

Sunday, Sept. nth. Lat. 30° 04' N., long. 63° 23' W.; the Ber- 
mudas bearing north-north-west, distant one hundred and fifty 
miles. The next morning, about ten o'clock, "Sail ho!" was cried 
on deck; and all hands turned up to see the stranger. As she drew 
nearer, she proved to be an ordinary-looking hermaphrodite brig, 
standing south-south-east; and probably bound out, from the North- 
ern States, to the West Indies; and was just the thing we wished to 
see. She hove-to for us, seeing that we wished to speak her; and 
we ran down to her; boom-ended our studding-sails; backed our 
main topsail, and hailed her — "Brig, ahoy!" — "Hallo!" — "Where 
are you from, pray?" — ^"From New York, bound to Cura^oa." — 
"Have you any fresh provisions to spare?" — "Aye, aye! plenty of 
them!" We lowered away the quarter-boat, instantly; and the cap- 
tain and four hands sprang in, and were soon dancing over the 
water, and alongside the brig. In about half an hour, they returned 
with half a boat-load of potatoes and onions, and each vessel filled 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 343 

away, and kept on her course. She proved to be the brig Solon, of 
Plymouth, from the Connecticut river, and last from New York, 
bound to the Spanish Main, with a cargo of fresh provisions, mules, 
tin bake-pans, and other notions. The onions were genuine and 
fresh; and the mate of the brig told the men in the boat, as he 
passed the bunches over the side, that the girls had strung them 
on purpose for us the day he sailed. We had supposed, on board, 
that a new president had been chosen, the last winter, and, just as we 
filled away, the captain hailed and asked who was president of the 
United States. They answered, Andrew Jackson; but thinking that 
the old General could not have been elected for a third time, we 
hailed again, and they answered — Jack Downing; and left us to 
correct the mistake at our leisure. 

It was just dinner-time when we filled away; and the steward, 
taking a few bunches of onions for the cabin, gave the rest to us, 
vwth a bottle of vinegar. We carried them forward, stowed them 
away in the forecastle, refusing to have them cooked, and ate them 
raw, with our beef and bread. And a glorious treat they were. The 
freshness and crispness of the raw onion, with the earthy taste, give 
it a great relish to one who has been a long time on salt provisions. 
We were perfectly ravenous after them. It was like a scent of blood 
to a hound. We ate them at every meal, by the dozen; and filled our 
pockets with them, to eat in our watch on deck; and the bunches, 
rising in the form of a cone, from the largest at the bottom, to the 
smallest, no larger than a strawberry, at the top, soon disappeared. 
The chief use, however, of the fresh provisions, was for the men 
with the scurvy. One of them was able to eat, and he soon brought 
himself to, by gnawing upon raw potatoes; but the other, by this 
time, was hardly able to open his mouth; and the cook took the 
potatoes raw, pounded them in a mortar, and gave him the juice to 
drink. This he swallowed, by the tea-spoonful at a time, and rinsed 
it about his gums and throat. The strong earthy taste and smell of 
this extract of the raw potato at first produced a shuddering through 
his whole frame, and after drinking it, an acute pain, which ran 
through all parts of his body; but knowing, by this, that it was 
taking strong hold, he persevered, drinking a spoonful every hour 
or so, and holding it a long time in his mouth; until, by the effect 



344 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

of this drink, and of his own restored hope, (for he had nearly given 
up, in despair) he became so well as to be able to move about, and 
open his mouth enough to eat the raw potatoes and onions pounded 
into a soft pulp. This course soon restored his appetite and strength; 
and in ten days after we spoke the Solon, so rapid was his recovery, 
that, from lying helpless and almost hopeless in his berth, he was 
at the mast-head, furling a royal. 

With a fine south-west wind, we passed inside of the Bermudas; 
and notwithstanding the old couplet, which was quoted again and 
again by those who thought we should have one more touch of a 
storm before our voyage was up, — 

"If the Bermudas let you pass, 
You must beware of Hatteras — " 

we were to the northward of Hatteras, with good weather, and 
beginning to count, not the days, but the hours, to the time when 
we should be at anchor in Boston harbor. 

Our ship was in fine order, all hands having been hard at work 
upon her from daylight to dark, every day but Sunday, from the 
time we got into warm weather on this side the Cape. 

It is a common notion with landsmen that a ship is in her finest 
condition when she leaves port to enter upon her voyage; and that 
she comes home, after a long absence, 

"With over-weathered ribs and ragged sails; 
Lean, rent and beggared by the strumpet wind." 

But so far from that, unless a ship meets with some accident, or 
comes upon the coast in the dead of winter, when work cannot be 
done upon the rigging, she is in her finest order at the end of the 
voyage. When she sails from port, her rigging is generally slack; 
the masts need staying; the decks and sides are black and dirty 
from taking in cargo; riggers' seizings and overhand knots in place 
of nice seamanlike work; and everything, to a sailor's eye, adrift. 
But on the passage home, the fine weather between the tropics is 
spent in putting the ship into the neatest order. No merchant vessel 
looks better than an Indiaman, or a Cape Horn-er, after a long 
voyage; and many captains and mates will stake their reputation for 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 345 

seamanship upon the appearance of their ship when she hauls into 
the dock. All our standing rigging, fore and aft, was set up and 
tarred; the masts stayed; the lower and top-mast rigging rattled 
down, (or up, as the fashion now is;) and so careful were our 
officers to keep the rattlins taught and straight, that we were obliged 
to go aloft upon the ropes and shearpoles with which the rigging 
was swifted in; and these were used as jury rattlins until we got 
close upon the coast. After this, the ship was scraped, inside and 
out, decks, masts, booms and all; a stage being rigged outside, upon 
which we scraped her down to the water-line; pounding the rust 
off the chains, bolts and fastenings. Then, taking two days of calm 
under the line, we painted her on the outside, giving her open ports 
in her streak, and finishing off the nice work upon the stern, where 
sat Neptune in his car, holding his trident, drawn by sea-horses; 
and re-touched the gilding and coloring of the cornucopia which 
ornamented her billet-head. The inside was then painted, from the 
sky sail truck to the waterways — the yards black; mast-heads and 
tops, white; monkey-rail, black, white, and yellow; bulwarks, green; 
plank-shear, white; waterways, lead color, etc., etc. The anchors 
and ring-bolts, and other iron work, were blackened with coal-tar; 
and the steward kept at work, polishing the brass of the wheel, bell, 
capstan, etc. The cabin, too, was scraped, varnished, and painted; 
and the forecastle scraped and scrubbed; there being no need of 
paint and varnish for Jack's quarters. The decks were then scraped 
and varnished, and everything useless thrown overboard; among 
which the empty tar barrels were set on fire and thrown overboard, 
on a dark night, and left blazing astern, lighting up the ocean for 
miles. Add to all this labor, the neat work upon the rigging; — the 
knots, fliemish-eyes, splices, seizings, coverings, pointings, and graf- 
fings, which show a ship in crack order. The last preparation, and 
which looked still more like coming into port, was getting the 
anchors over the bows, bending the cables, rowsing the hawsers up 
from between decks, and overhauling the deep-sea-lead-line. 

Thursday, September i^th. This morning the temperature and 
peculiar appearance of the water, the quantities of gulf-weed float- 
ing about, and a bank of clouds lying directly before us, showed 
that we were on the border of the Gulf Stream. This remarkable 



346 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

current, running north-east, nearly across the ocean, is almost con- 
stantly shrouded in clouds, and is the region of storms and heavy 
seas. Vessels often run from a clear sky and light wind, with all 
sail, at once into a heavy sea and cloudy sky, with double- 
reefed topsails. A sailor told me that on a passage from Gibraltar 
to Boston, his vessel neared the Gulf Stream with a light breeze, 
clear sky, and studding-sails out, alow and aloft; while, before it, 
was a long line of heavy, black clouds, lying like a bank upon the 
water, and a vessel coming out of it, under double-reefed topsails, 
and with royal yards sent down. As they drew near, they began to 
take in sail after sail, until they were reduced to the same condition; 
and, after twelve or fourteen hours of rolling and pitching in a 
heavy sea, before a smart gale, they ran out of the bank on the other 
side, and were in fine weather again, and under their royals and 
skysails. As we drew into it, the sky became cloudy, the sea high, 
and everything had the appearance of the going off, or the coming 
on, of a storm. It was blowing no more than a stiff breeze; yet the 
wind, being north-east, which is directly against the course of the 
current, made an ugly, chopping sea, which heaved and pitched the 
vessel about, so that we were obliged to send down the royal yards, 
and to take in our light sails. At noon, the thermometer, which had 
been repeatedly lowered into the water, showed the temperature to 
be seventy; which was considerably above that of the air, — as is 
always the case in the centre of the Stream. A lad who had been 
at work at the royal mast-head, came down upon the deck, and took 
a turn round the long-boat; and looking very pale, said he was so 
sick that he could stay aloft no longer, but was ashamed to acknowl- 
edge it to the officer. He went up again, but soon gave out and 
came down, and leaned over the rail, "as sick as a lady passenger." 
He had been to sea several years, and had, he said, never been sick 
before. He was made so by the irregular, pitching motion of the 
vessel, increased by the height to which he had been above the 
hull, which is like the fulcrum of the lever. An old sailor, who was 
at work on the top-gallant yard, said he felt disagreeably all the 
time, and was glad, when his job was done, to get down into the 
top, or upon the deck. Another hand was sent to the royal mast- 
head, who staid nearly an hour, but gave up. The work must be 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 347 

done, and the mate sent me. I did very well for some time, but 
began at length to feel very unpleasantly, though I had never been 
sick since the first two days from Boston, and had been in all sorts 
of weather and situations. Still, I kept my place, and did not come 
down, until I had got through my work, which was more than two 
hours. The ship certainly never acted so badly before. She was 
pitched and jerked about in all manner of ways; the sails seeming 
to have no steadying power over her. The tapering points of the 
masts made various curves and angles against the sky overhead, 
and sometimes, in one sweep of an instant, described an arc of more 
than forty-five degrees, bringing up with a sudden jerk which made 
it necessary to hold on with both hands, and then sweeping off, in 
another long, irregular curve. I was not positively sick, and came 
down with a look of indifference, yet was not unwilling to get 
upon the comparative terra firma of the deck. A few hours more 
carried us through, and when we saw the sun go down, upon our 
larboard beam, in the direction of the continent of North America, 
we had left the bank of dark, stormy clouds astern, in the twilight. 



CHAPTER XXXVI 

Soundings — Sights from Home — Boston Harbor — Leaving 

THE Ship 

FRIDAY, Sept. i6th. Lat. 38° N., long. 69° 00' W. A fine 
south-west wind; every hour carrying us nearer in toward 
land. All hands on deck at the dog watch, and nothing talked 
about, but our getting in; where we should make the land; whether 
we should arrive before Sunday; going to church; how Boston 
would look; friends; wages paid; — and the like. Every one was 
in the best of spirits; and, the voyage being nearly at an end, the 
strictness of discipline was relaxed; for it was not necessary to 
order in a cross tone, what every one was ready to do with a will. 
The little differences and quarrels which a long voyage breeds on 
board a ship, were forgotten, and every one was friendly; and two 
men, who had been on the eve of a battle half the voyage, were 
laying out a plan together for a cruise on shore. When the mate 
came forward, he talked to the men, and said we should be on 
George's Bank before to-morrow noon; and joked with the boys, 
promising to go and see them, and to take them down to Marble- 
head in a coach. 

Saturday, ijth. The wind was light all day, which kept us back 
somewhat; but a fine breeze springing up at nightfall, we were 
running fast in toward the land. At six o'clock we expected to have 
the ship hove-to for soundings, as a thick fog, coming up showed 
we were near them; but no order was given, and we kept on our 
way. Eight o'clock came, and the watch went below, and, for the 
whole of the first hour, the ship was tearing on, with studding- 
sails out, alow and aloft, and the night as dark as a pocket. At two 
bells the captain came on deck, and said a word to the mate, when 
the studding sails were hauled into the tops, or boom-ended, the 
after yards backed, the deep-sea-lead carried forward, and every- 
thing got ready for sounding. A man on the spritsail yard with 

348 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 349 

the lead, another on the cat-head with a handful of the Une coiled 
up, another in the fore chains, another in the waist, and another 
in the main chains, each with a quantity of the line coiled away 
in his hand. "All ready there, forward?" — ^"Aye, aye, sir!" — 
"He-e-e-ave!" — "Watch! ho! watch!" sings out the man on the 
spritsail yard, and the heavy lead drops into the water. "Watch! ho! 
watch!" bawls the man on the cat-head, as the last fake of the coil 
drops from his hand, and "Watch! ho! watch!" is shouted by each 
one as the line falls from his hold; until it comes to the mate, who 
tends the lead, and has the line in coils on the quarter-deck. Eighty 
fathoms, and no bottom! A depth as great as the height of St. 
Peter's! the line is snatched in a block upon the swifter, and three 
or four men haul it in and coil it away. The after yards are braced 
full, the studding-sails hauled out again, and in a few minutes 
more the ship had her whole way upon her. At four bells, backed 
again, hove the lead, and — soundings! at sixty fathoms! Hurrah 
for Yankee land! Hand over hand, we hauled the lead in, and the 
captain, taking it to the light, found black mud on the bottom. 
Studding-sails taken in; after yards filled, and ship kept on under 
easy sail all night; the wind dying away. 

The soundings on the American coast are so regular that a 
navigator knows as well where he has made land, by the soundings, 
as he would by seeing the land. Black mud is the soundings of 
Block Island. As you go toward Nantucket, it changes to a dark 
sand; then, sand and white shells; and on George's Banks, white 
sand; and so on. Being off Block Island, our course was due east, 
to Nantucket Shoals, and the South Channel; but the wind died 
away and left us becalmed in a thick fog, in which we lay the 
whole of Sunday. At noon of 

Sunday, i8th. Block Island bore, by calculation, N. W. 1-4 W. 
fifteen miles; but the fog was so thick all day that we could see 
nothing. 

Having got through the ship's duty, and washed and shaved, we 
went below, and had a fine time overhauling our chests, laying 
aside the clothes we meant to go ashore in and throwing overboard 
all that were worn out and good for nothing. Away went the 
woollen caps in which we had carried hides upon our heads, for 



350 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

sixteen months, on the coast o£ CaUfornia; the duck frocks, for 
tarring down rigging; and the worn-out and darned mittens and 
patched woollen trowsers which had stood the tug of Cape Horn. 
We hove them overboard with a good will; for there is nothing 
like being quit of the very last appendages and remnants of our 
evil fortune. We got our chests all ready for going ashore, ate the 
last "duff" we expected to have on board the ship Alert; and talked 
as confidently about matters on shore as though our anchor were 
on the bottom. 

"Who'll go to church with me a week from to-day?" 

"I will," says Jack; who said aye to everything. 

"Go away, salt water!" says Tom. "As soon as I get both legs 
ashore, I'm going to shoe my heels, and button my ears behind me, 
and start oif into the bush, a straight course, and not stop till I'm 
out of the sight of salt water!" 

"Oh! belay that! Spin that yarn where nobody knows your 

filling! If you get once moored, stem and stern, in old B 's 

grog-shop, with a coal fire ahead and the bar under your lee, you 
won't see daylight for three weeks!" 

"No!" says Tom, "I'm going to knock ofE grog, and go and board 
at the Home, and see if they won't ship me for a deacon!" 

"And I," says Bill, "am going to buy a quadrant and ship for 
navigator of a Hingham packet!" 

These and the like jokes served to pass the time while we were 
lying waidng for a breeze to clear up the fog and send us on our 
way. 

Toward night a moderate breeze sprang up; the fog however 
continuing as thick as before; and we kept on to the eastward. 
About the middle of the first watch, a man on the forecastle sang 
out, in a tone which showed that there was not a moment to be 
lost, — ^"Hard up the helm!" and a great ship loomed up out of the 
fog, coming directly down upon us. She luffed at the same moment, 
and we just passed one another; our spanker boom grazing over 
her quarter. The officer of the deck had only time to hail, and she 
answered, as she went into the fog again, something about Bristol — 
Probably, a whaleman from Bristol, Rhode Island, bound out. The 
fog condnued through the night, with a very light breeze, before 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 35 1 

which we ran to the eastward, literally feeling our way along. The 
lead was heaved every two hours, and the gradual change from 
black mud to sand, showed that we were approaching Nantucket 
South Shoals. On Monday morning, the increased depth and deep 
blue color of the water, and the mixture of shells and white sand 
which we brought up, upon sounding, showed that we were in the 
channel, and nearing George's; accordingly, the ship's head was put 
directly to the northward, and we stood on, with perfect confidence 
in the soundings, though we had not taken an observation for two 
days, nor seen land; and the difference of an eighth of a mile out 
of the way might put us ashore. Throughout the day a provokingly 
Hght wind prevailed, and at eight o'clock, a small fishing schooner, 
which we passed, told us we were nearly abreast of Chatham lights. 
Just before midnight, a light land-breeze sprang up, which carried 
us well along; and at four o'clock, thinking ourselves to the north- 
ward of Race Point, we hauled upon the wind and stood into the 
bay, west-north-west, for Boston light, and commenced firing guns 
for a pilot. Our watch went below at four o'clock, but could not 
sleep, for the watch on deck were banging away at the guns every 
few minutes. And, indeed, we cared very little about it, for we 
were in Boston Bay; and if fortune favored us, we could all "sleep 
in" the next night, with nobody to call the watch every four 
hours. 

We turned out, of our own will, at daybreak, to get a sight of land. 
In the grey of the morning, one or two small fishing smacks peered 
out of the mist; and when the broad day broke upon us, there lay 
the low sand-hills of Cape Cod, over our larboard quarter, and 
before us, the wide waters of Massachusetts Bay, with here and 
there a sail gliding over its smooth surface. As we drew in toward 
the mouth of the harbor, as toward a focus, the vessels began to 
multiply until the bay seemed actually alive with sails gliding about 
in every direction; some on the wind, and others before it, as they 
were bound to or from the emporium of trade and centre of the 
bay. It was a stirring sight for us, who had been months on the 
ocean without seeing anything but two solitary sails; and over two 
years without seeing more than the three or four traders on an 
almost desolate coast. There were the little coasters, bound to and 



352 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

from the various towns along the south shore, down in the bight 
of the bay, and to the eastward; here and there a square-rigged 
vessel standing out to seaward; and, far in the distance, beyond 
Cape Ann, was the smoke of a steamer, stretching along in a 
narrow, black cloud upon the water. Every sight was full of beauty 
and interest. We were coming back to our homes; and the signs 
of civilization, and prosperity, and happiness, from which we had 
been so long banished, were multiplying about us. The high land 
of Cape Ann and the rocks and shore of Cohasset were full in sight, 
the lighthouses, standing like sentries in white before the harbors, 
and even the smoke from the chimney on the plains of Hingham 
was seen rising slowly in the morning air. One of our boys was the 
son of a bucket-maker; and his face lighted up as he saw the tops 
of the well-known hills which surround his native place. About 
ten o'clock a little boat came bobbing over the water, and put a 
pilot on board, and sheered off in pursuit of other vessels bound in. 
Being now within the scope of the telegraph stations, our signals 
were run up at the fore, and in half an hour afterwards, the owner 
on 'change, or in his counting-room, knew that his ship was below; 
and the landlords, runners, and sharks in Ann street learned that 
there was a rich prize for them down in the bay : a ship from round 
the Horn, with a crew to be paid off with two years' wages. 

The wind continuing very light, all hands were sent aloft to 
strip off the chafing gear; and battens, parcellings, roundings, 
hoops, mats, and leathers, came flying from aloft, and left the 
rigging neat and clean, stripped of all its sea bandaging. The last 
touch was put to the vessel by painting the skysail poles; and I was 
sent up to the fore, with a bucket of white paint and a brush, and 
touched her off, from the truck to the eyes of the royal rigging. At 
noon, we lay becalmed off the lower light-house; and it being about 
slack water, we made little progress. A firing was heard in the 
direction of Hingham, and the pilot said there was a review there. 
The Hingham boy got wind of this, and said if the ship had been 
twelve hours sooner, he should have been down among the soldiers, 
and in the booths, and having a grand time. As it was, we had 
little prospect of getting in before night. About two o'clock a breeze 
sprang up ahead, from the westward, and we began beating up 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 353 

against it. A full-rigged brig was beating in at the same time, and 
we passed one another, in our tacks, sometimes one and sometimes 
the other, working to windward, as the wind and tide favored or 
opposed. It was my trick at the wheel from two till four; and I stood 
my last helm, making between nine hundred and a thousand hours 
which I had spent at the helms of our two vessels. The tide be- 
ginning to set against us, we made slow work; and the afternoon 
was nearly spent, before we got abreast of the inner light. In the 
meantime, several vessels were coming down, outward bound; 
among which, a fine, large ship, with yards squared, fair wind and 
fair tide, passed us like a race-horse, the men running out upon her 
yards to rig out the studding-sail booms. Toward sundown the wind 
came off in flaws, sometimes blowing very stiff, so that the pilot took 
in the royals, and then it died away; when, in order to get us in 
before the tide became too strong, the royals were set again. As this 
kept us running up and down the rigging all the time, one hand 
was sent aloft at each mast-head, to stand-by to loose and furl the 
sails, at the moment of the order. I took my place at the fore, and 
loosed and furled the royal five times between Rainsford Island 
and the Casde. At one tack we ran so near to Rainsford Island, that, 
looking down from the royal yard, the island, with its hospital 
buildings, nice gravelled walks, and green plats, seemed to lie 
directly under our yard-arms. So close is the channel to some of 
these islands, that we ran the end of our flying-jib-boom over one 
of the out- works of the fortifications on George's Island; and had 
an opportunity of seeing the advantages of that point as a fortified 
place; for, in working up the channel, we presented a fair stem 
and stern, for raking, from the batteries, three or four times. One 
gun might have knocked us to pieces. 

We had all set our hearts upon getting up to town before night 
and going ashore, but the tide beginning to run strong against us, 
and the wind, what there was of it, being ahead, we made but little 
by weather-bowing the tide, and the pilot gave orders to cock-bill 
the anchor and overhaul the chain. Making two long stretches, 
which brought us into the roads, under the lee of the castle, he clewed 
up the topsails, and let go the anchor; and for the first time since 
leaving San Diego, — one hundred and thirty-five days — our anchor 



354 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

was upon bottom. In half an hour more, we were lying snugly, with 
all sails furled, safe in Boston harbor; our long voyage ended; the 
well-known scene about us; the dome of the State House fading 
in the western sky; the lights of the city starting into sight, as the 
darkness came on; and at nine o'clock the clangor of the bells, 
ringing their accustomed peals; among which the Boston boys tried 
to distinguish the well-known tone of the Old South. 

We had just done furling the sails, when a beautiful little 
pleasure-boat luffed up into the wind, under our quarter, and the 
junior partner of the firm to which our ship belonged, jumped on 
board. I saw him from the mizen topsail yard, and knew him well. 
He shook the captain by the hand, and went down into the cabin, 
and in a few moments came up and inquired of the mate for me. 
The last time I had seen him, I was in the uniform of an under- 
graduate of Harvard College, and now, to his astonishment, there 
came down from aloft a "rough alley" looking fellow, with duck 
trowsers and red shirt, long hair, and face burnt as black as an 
Indian's. He shook me by the hand, congratulated me upon my 
return and my appearance of health and strength, and said my 
friends were all well. I thanked him for telling me what I should 
not have dared to ask; and if — 

"the first bringer of unwelcome news 



Hath but a losing office; and his tongue 
Sounds ever after like a sullen bell — " 

certainly I shall ever remember this man and his words with 
pleasure. 

The captain went up to town in the boat with Mr. H , and 

left us to pass another night on board ship, and to come up with 
the morning's tide under command of the pilot. 

So much did we feel ourselves to be already at home, in anticipa- 
tion, that our plain supper of hard bread and salt beef was barely 
touched; and many on board, to whom this was the first voyage, 
could scarcely sleep. As for myself, by one of those anomalous 
changes of feeling of which we are all the subjects, I found that I 
was in a state of indifference, for which I could by no means 
account. A year before, while carrying hides on the coast, the 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 355 

assurance that in a twelvemonth we should see Boston, made me 
half wild; but now that I was actually there, and in sight of home, 
the emotions which I had so long anticipated feeling, I did not find, 
and in their place was a state of very nearly entire apathy. Some- 
thing of the same experience was related to me by a sailor whose 
first voyage was one of five years upon the North-west Coast. He 
had left home, a lad, and after several years of very hard and trying 
experience, found himself homeward bound; and such was the excite- 
ment of his feelings that, during the whole passage, he could talk 
and think of nothing else but his arrival, and how and when he 
should jump from the vessel and take his way directly home. Yet 
when the vessel was made fast to the wharf and the crew dismissed, 
he seemed suddenly to lose all feeling about the matter. He told 
me that he went below and changed his dress; took some water 
from the scuttle-butt and washed himself leisurely; overhauled his 
chest, and put his clothes all in order; took his pipe from its place, 
filled it, and sitting down upon his chest, smoked it slowly for the 
last time. Here he looked round upon the forecastle in which he 
had spent so many years, and being alone and his shipmates scattered, 
he began to feel actually unhappy. Home became almost a dream; 
and it was not until his brother (who had heard of the ship's arrival) 
came down into the forecastle and told him of things at home, and 
who were waiting there to see him, that he could realize where he 
was, and feel interest enough to put him in motion toward that 
place for which he had longed, and of which he had dreamed, for 
years. There is probably so much of excitement in prolonged ex- 
pectation, that the quiet realizing of it produces a momentary 
stagnation of feeling as well as of effort. It was a good deal so 
with me. The activity of preparation, the rapid progress of the 
ship, the first making land, the coming up the harbor, and old scenes 
breaking upon the view, produced a mental as well as bodily 
activity, from which the change to a perfect stillness, when both 
expectation and the necessity of labor failed, left a calmness, almost 
of indifference, from which I must be roused by some new excite- 
ment. And the next morning, when all hands were called, and we 
were busily at work, clearing the decks, and getting everything in 
readiness for going up to the wharves, — loading the guns for a 



356 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

salute, loosing the sails, and manning the windlass — mind and 
body seemed to wake together. 

About ten o'clock, a sea-breeze sprang up, and the pilot gave 
orders to get the ship under weigh. All hands manned the wind- 
lass, and the long-drawn "Yo, heave, ho!" which we had last heard 
dying away among the desolate hills of San Diego, soon brought 
the anchor to the bows; and, with a fair wind and tide, a bright 
sunny morning, royals and sky-sails set, ensign, streamer, signals, 
and pennant, flying, and with our guns firing, we came swiftly and 
handsomely up to the city. Off the end of the wharf, we rounded-to 
and let go our anchor; and no sooner was it on the bottom, than 
the decks were filled with people: custom-house officers; TopliU's 
agent, to inquire for news; others, inquiring for friends on board, 
or left upon the coast; dealers in grease, besieging the galley to 
make a bargain with the cook for his slush; "loafers" in general; 
and last and chief, boarding-house runners, to secure their men. 
Nothing can exceed the obliging disposition of these runners, and 
the interest they take in a sailor returned from a long voyage with 
a plenty of money. Two or three of them, at different times, took 
me by the hand; remembered me perfectly; were quite sure I had 
boarded with them before I sailed; were delighted to see me back; 
gave me their cards; had a hand-cart waiting on the wharf, on 
purpose to take my things up: would lend me a hand to get my 
chest ashore; bring a bottle of grog on board if we did not haul 
in immediately, — and the like. In fact, we could hardly get clear 
of them, to go aloft and furl the sails. Sail after sail, for the hun- 
dredth time, in fair weather and in foul, we furled now for the last 
time together, and came down and took the warp ashore, manned 
the capstan, and with a chorus which waked up half the North 
End, and rang among the buildings in the dock, we hauled her in 
to the wharf. Here, too, the landlords and runners were active and 
ready, taking a bar to the capstan, lending a hand at the ropes, 
laughing and talking and telling the news. The city bells were 
just ringing one when the last turn was made fast, and the crew 
dismissed; and in five minutes more, not a soul was left on board the 
good ship Alert, but the old ship-keeper, who had come down from 
the counting-house to take charge of her. 



CONCLUDING CHAPTER 

I TRUST that they who have followed me to the end o£ my 
narrative, will not refuse to carry their attention a little farther, 
to the concluding remarks which I here present to them. 

This chapter is written after the lapse of a considerable time since 
the end of my voyage, and after a return to my former pursuits; and 
in it I design to offer those views of what may be done for seamen, 
and of what is already doing, which I have deduced from my 
experiences, and from the attention which I have since gladly given 
to the subject. 

The romantic interest which many take in the sea, and in those 
who live upon it, may be of use in exciting their attention to this 
subject, though I cannot but feel sure that all who have followed 
me in my narrative must be convinced that the sailor has no 
romance in his every-day life to sustain him, but that it is very 
much the same plain, matter-of-fact drudgery and hardship, which 
would be experienced on shore. If I have not produced this con- 
viction, I have failed in persuading others of what my own ex- 
perience has most fully impressed upon myself. 

There is a witchery in the sea, its songs and stories, and in the 
mere sight of a ship, and the sailor's dress, especially to a young 
mind, which has done more to man navies, and fill merchantmen, 
than all the press-gangs of Europe. I have known a young man 
with such a passion for the sea, that the very creaking of a block 
stirred up his imagination so that he could hardly keep his feet on 
dry ground; and many are the boys, in every seaport, who are drawn 
away, as by an almost irresistible attraction, from their work and 
schools, and hang about the decks and yards of vessels, wdth a 
fondness which, it is plain, will have its way. No sooner, however, 
has the young sailor begun his new life in earnest, than all this fine 
drapery falls off, and he learns that it is but work and hardship, 
after all. This is the true light in which a sailor's life is to be 
viewed; and if in our books, and anniversary speeches, we would 

357 



358 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

leave out much that is said about "blue water," "blue jackets," 
"open hearts," "seeing God's hand on the deep," and so forth, and 
take this up like any other practical subject, I am quite sure we 
should do full as much for those we wish to benefit. The question 
is, what can be done for sailors, as they are, — men to be fed, and 
clothed, and lodged, for whom laws must be made and executed, 
and who are to be instructed in useful knowledge, and, above all, 
to be brought under religious influence and restraint? It is upon 
these topics that I wish to make a few observations. 

In the first place, I have no fancies about equality on board ship. 
It is a thing out of the question, and certainly, in the present state 
of mankind, not to be desired. I never knew a sailor who found 
fault with the orders and ranks of the service; and if I expected to 
pass the rest of my life before the mast, I would not wish to have 
the power of the captain diminished an iota. It is absolutely neces- 
sary that there should be one head and one voice, to control every- 
thing, and be responsible for everything. There are emergencies 
which require the instant exercise of extreme power. These emer- 
gencies do not allow of consultation; and they who would be the 
captain's constituted advisers might be the very men over whom 
he would be called upon to exert his authority. It has been found 
necessary to vest in every government, even the most democratic, 
some extraordinary, and, at first sight, alarming powers; trusting in 
public opinion, and subsequent accountability to modify the exercise 
of them. These are provided to meet exigencies, which all hope 
may never occur, but which yet by possibility may occur, and if 
they should, and there were no power to meet them instantly, there 
would be an end put to the government at once. So it is with the 
authority of the shipmaster. It will not answer to say that he shall 
never do this and that thing, because it does not seem always 
necessary and advisable that it should be done. He has great cares 
and responsibilities; is answerable for everything; and is subject 
to emergencies which perhaps no other man exercising authority 
among civilized people is subject to. Let him, then, have powers 
commensurate with his utmost possible need; only let him be held 
strictly responsible for the exercise of them. Any other course would 
be injustice, as well as bad policy. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 359 

In the treatment of those under his authority, the captain is 
amenable to the common law, like any other person. He is Uable 
at common law for murder, assault and battery, and other offences; 
and in addition to this, there is a special statute of the United 
States which makes a captain or other officer liable to imprison- 
ment for a term not exceeding five years, and to a fine not ex- 
ceeding a thousand dollars, for inflicting any cruel punishment 
upon, withholding food from, or in any other way maltreating 
a seaman. This is the state of the law on the subject; while the 
relation in which the paities stand, and the pecuHar necessities, 
excuses, and provocations arising from that relation, are merely 
circumstances to be considered in each case. As to the restraints 
upon the master's exercise of power, the laws themselves seem, on 
the whole, to be sufficient. I do not see that we are in need, at 
present, of more legislation on the subject. The difficulty lies rather 
in the administration of the laws; and this is certainly a matter that 
deserves great consideration, and one of no Httle embarrassment. 

In the first place, the courts have said that pubhc policy requires 
the power of the master and officers should be sustained. Many lives 
and a great amount of property are constantly in their hands, for 
which they are strictly responsible. To preserve these, and to deal 
justly by the captain, and not lay upon him a really fearful re- 
sponsibility, and then tie up his hands, it is essential that discipline 
should be supported. In the second place, there is always great 
allowance to be made for false swearing and exaggeration by sea- 
men, and for combinations among them against their officers; and 
it is to be remembered that the latter have often no one to testify 
on their side. These are weighty and true statements, and should 
not be lost sight of by the friends of seamen. On the other hand, 
sailors make many complaints, some of which are well founded. 

On the subject of testimony, seamen labor under a difficulty full 
as great as that of the captain. It is a well-known fact, that they are 
usually much better treated when there are passengers on board. 
The presence of passengers is a restraint upon the captain, not only 
from his regard to their feelings and to the estimation in which they 
may hold him, but because he knows they will be influential wit- 
nesses against him if he is brought to trial. Though officers may 



360 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

sometimes be inclined to show themselves off before passengers, by 
freaks of office and authority, yet cruelty they would hardly dare 
to be guilty of. It is on long and distant voyages, where there is no 
restraint upon the captain, and none but the crew to testify against 
him, that sailors need most the protection of the law. On such 
voyages as these, there are many cases of outrageous cruelty on 
record, enough to make one heartsick, and almost disgusted with 
the sight of man; and many, many more, which have never come 
to light, and never will be known, until the sea shall give up its 
dead. Many of these have led to mutiny and piracy, — stripe for 
stripe, and blood for blood. If on voyages of this description the 
testimony of seamen is not to be received in favor of one another, 
or too great a deduction is made on account of their being seamen, 
their case is without remedy; and the captain, knowing this, will 
be strengthened in that disposition to tyrannize which the possession 
of absolute power, without the restraints of friends and public 
opinion, is too apt to engender. 

It is to be considered, also, that the sailor comes into court under 
very different circumstances from the master. He is thrown among 
landlords, and sharks of all descriptions; is often led to drink freely; 
and comes upon the stand unaided, and under a certain cloud of 
suspicion as to his character and veracity. The captain, on the other 
hand, is backed by the owners and insurers, and has an air of 
greater respectability; though, after all, he may have but a little 
better education than the sailor, and sometimes, (especially among 
those engaged in certain voyages that I could mention) a very 
hackneyed conscience. 

These are the considerations most commonly brought up on the 
subject of seamen's evidence; and I think it cannot but be obvious 
to every one that here, positive legislation would be of no manner 
of use. There can be no rule of law regulating the weight to 
be given to seamen's evidence. It must rest in the mind of the 
judge and jury; and no enactment or positive rule of court could 
vary the result a hair, in any one case. The effect of a sailor's 
testimony in deciding a case must depend altogether upon the 
reputation of the class to which he belongs, and upon the im- 
pression he himself produces in court by his deportment, and by 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 36 1 

those infallible marks of character which always tell upon a jury. 
In fine, after all the well-meant and specious projects that have 
been brought forward, we seem driven back to the belief, that the 
best means of securing a fair administration of the laws made for 
the protection of seamen, and certainly the only means which can 
create any important change for the better, is the gradual one of 
raising the intellectual and religious character of the sailor, so that 
as an individual and as one of a class, he may, in the first instance, 
command the respect of his officers, and if any difficulty should 
happen, may upon the stand carry that weight which an intelligent 
and respectable man of the lower class almost always does with 
a jury. I know there are many men who, when a few cases of great 
hardship occur, and it is evident that there is an evil somewhere, 
think that some arrangement must be made, some law passed, or 
some society got up, to set all right at once. On this subject there 
can be no call for any such movement; on the contrary, I fully believe 
that any public and strong action would do harm, and that we must 
be satisfied to labor in the less easy and less exciting task of gradual 
improvement, and abide the issue of things working slowly together 
for good. 

Equally injudicious would be any interference with the economy 
of the ship. The lodging, food, hours of sleep, etc., are all matters 
which, though capable of many changes for the better, must yet be 
left to regulate themselves. And I am confident that there will be, 
and that there is now a gradual improvement in all such par- 
ticulars. The forecastles of most of our ships are small, black, and 
wet holes, which few landsmen would believe held a crew of ten 
or twelve men on a voyage of months or years; and often, indeed 
in most cases, the provisions are not good enough to make a meal 
anything more than a necessary part of a day's duty;' and on the 

'I am not sure that I have stated, in the course of my narrative, the manner in 
which sailors eat, on board ship. There are neither tables, knives, forks, nor plates, 
in a forecastle; but the kid (a wooden tub, with iron hoops) is placed on the floor, 
and the crew sit round it, and each man cuts for himself with the common jack-knife 
or sheath-knife, that he carries about him. They drink their tea out of tin pots, 
holding little less than a quart each. 

These particulars are not looked upon as hardships, and, indeed, may be considered 
matters of choice. Sailors, in our merchantmen, furnish their own eating utensils, as 
they do many of the instruments which they use in the ship's work, such as knives. 



362 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

score of sleep, I fully believe that the lives of merchant seamen are 
shortened by the want of it. I do not refer to those occasions when 
it is necessarily broken in upon; but, for months, during fine 
weather, in many merchantmen, all hands are kept, throughout the 
day, and, then, there are eight hours on deck for one watch each 
night. Thus it is usually the case that at the end of a voyage, where 
there has been the finest weather, and no disaster, the crew have a 
wearied and worn-out appearance. They never sleep longer than 
four hours at a time, and are seldom called without being really in 
need of more rest. There is no one thing that a sailor thinks more 
of as a luxury of life on shore, than a whole night's sleep. Still, all 
these things must be left to be gradually modified by circumstances. 
Whenever hard cases occur, they should be made known, and 
masters and owners should be held answerable, and will, no doubt, 
in time, be influenced in their arrangements and discipline by the 
increased consideration in which sailors are held by the public. 
It is perfectly proper that the men should live in a different part of 
the vessel from the ofScers; and if the forecastle is made large and 
comfortable, there is no reason why the crew should not live there 
as well as in any other part. In fact, sailors prefer the forecastle. It 
is their accustomed place, and in it they are out of the sight and 
hearing of their oflScers. 

As to their food and sleep, there are laws, with heavy penalties, 
requiring a certain amount of stores to be on board, and safely 
stowed; and, for depriving the crew unnecessarily of food or sleep, 
the captain is liable at common law, as well as under the statute 
before referred to. Farther than this, it would not be safe to go. 
The captain must be the judge when it is necessary to keep his 
crew from their sleep; and sometimes a retrenching, not of the 
necessaries, but of some of the little niceties of their meals, as, for 

palms and needles, marline-spikes, rubbers, etc. And considering their mode of life in 
other respects, the little time they would have for laying and clearing away a table 
with its apparatus, and the room it would take up in a forecastle, as well as the simple 
character of their meals, consisting generally of only one piece of meat, — it is cer- 
tainly a convenient method, and, as the kid and pans are usually kept perfectly clean, 
a neat and simple one. I had supposed these things to be generally known, until I 
heard, a few months ago, a lawyer of repute, who has had a good deal to do with 
marine cases, ask a sailor upon the stand whether the crew had "got up from table" 
when a certain thing happened. 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 363 

instance, duff on Sunday, may be a mode of punishment, though I 
think generally an injudicious one. 

I could not do justice to this subject without noticing one part o£ 
the discipline of a ship, which has been very much discussed of 
late, and has brought out strong expressions of indignation from 
many, — I mean the infliction of corporal punishment. Those who 
have followed me in my narrative will remember that I was wit- 
ness to an act of great cruelty inflicted upon my own shipmates; 
and indeed I can sincerely say that the simple mention of the word 
flogging, brings up in me feelings which I can hardly control. Yet, 
when the proposition is made to abolish it entirely and at once; to 
prohibit the captain from ever, under any circumstances, inflicting 
corporal punishment; I am obliged to pause, and, I must say, to 
doubt exceedingly the expediency of making any positive enactment 
which shall have that effect. If the design of those who are writing 
on this subject is merely to draw public attention to it, and to dis- 
courage the practice of flogging, and bring it into disrepute, it is 
well; and, indeed, whatever may be the end they have in view, the 
mere agitation of the question will have that effect, and, so far, 
must do good. Yet I should not wish to take the command of a 
ship to-morrow, running my chance of a crew, as most masters 
must, and know, and have my crew know, that I could not, under 
any circumstances, inflict even moderate chastisement. I should 
trust that I might never have to resort to it; and, indeed, I scarcely 
know what risk I would not run, and to what inconvenience I 
would not subject myself, rather than do so. Yet not to have the 
power of holding it up in terrorem, and indeed of protecting my- 
self, and all under my charge, by it, if some extreme case should 
arise, would be a situation I should not wish to be placed in myself, 
or to take the responsibility of placing another in. 

Indeed, the difficulties into which masters and officers are liable 
to be thrown, are not sufficiently considered by many whose sym- 
pathies are easily excited by stories, frequent enough, and true 
enough of outrageous abuse of this power. It is to be remembered 
that more than three-fourths of the seamen in our merchant vessels 
are foreigners. They are from all parts of the world. A great many 
from the north of Europe, beside Frenchmen, Spaniards, Portuguese, 



364 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

Italians, men from all parts of the Mediterranean, together with 
Lascars, Negroes, and, perhaps worst of all, the off-casts of British 
men-of-war, and men from our own country who have gone to sea 
because they could not be permitted to live on land. 

As things now are, many masters are obliged to sail without know- 
ing anything of their crews, until they get out at sea. There may be 
pirates or mutineers among them; and one bad man will often infect 
all the rest; and it is almost certain that some of them will be 
ignorant foreigners, hardly understanding a word of our language, 
accustomed all their lives to no influence but force, and perhaps 
nearly as familiar with the use of the knife as with that of the 
marline-spike. No prudent master, however peaceably inclined, 
would go to sea without his pistols and handcuffs. Even with such 
a crew as I have supposed, kindness and moderation would be the 
best policy, and the duty of every conscientious man; and the ad- 
ministering of corporal punishment might be dangerous, and of 
doubtful use. But the question is not, what a captain ought generally 
to do, but whether it shall be put out of the power of every captain, 
under any circumstances, to make use of, even moderate, chastise- 
ment. As the law now stands, a parent may correct moderately his 
child, and the master his apprentice; and the case of the shipmaster 
has been placed upon the same principle. The statutes, and the com- 
mon law as expounded in the decisions of courts, and in the books 
of commentators, are express and unanimous to this point, that the 
captain may inflict moderate corporal chastisement, for a reasonable 
cause. If the punishment is excessive, or the cause not sufficient to 
justify it, he is answerable; and the jury are to determine, by their 
verdict in each case, whether, under all the circumstances, the 
punishment was moderate, and for a justifiable cause. 

This seems to me to be as good a position as the whole subject can 
be left in. I mean to say, that no positive enactment, going beyond 
this, is needed, or would be a benefit either to masters or men, in the 
present state of things. This again would seem to be a case which 
should be left to the gradual working of its own cure. As seamen 
improve, punishment will become less necessary; and as the char- 
acter of officers is raised, they will be less ready to inflict it; and, 
still more, the infliction of it upon intelHgent and respectable men, 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 365 

will be an enormity which will not be tolerated by public opinion, 
and by juries, who are the pulse of the body politic. No one can 
have a greater abhorrence of the infliction of such punishment than 
I have, and a stronger conviction that severity is bad policy with a 
crew; yet I would ask every reasonable man whether he had not 
better trust to the practice becoming unnecessary and disreputable; 
to the measure of moderate chastisement and a justifiable cause 
being better understood, and thus, the act becoming dangerous, and 
in course of time to be regarded as an unheard-of barbarity — than to 
take the responsiblity of prohibiting it, at once, in all cases, and in 
what ever degree, by positive enactment? 

There is, however, one point connected with the administration 
of justice to seamen, to which I wish seriously to call the attention 
of those interested in their behalf, and, if possible, also of some of 
those concerned in that administration. This is, the practice which 
prevails of making strong appeals to the jury in mitigation of dam- 
ages, or to the judge, after a verdict has been rendered against a 
captain or officer, for a lenient sentence, on the grounds of their 
previous good character, and of their being poor, and having friends 
and families depending upon them for support. These appeals 
have been allowed a weight which is almost incredible, and which, 
I think, works a greater hardship upon seamen than any one other 
thing in the laws, or the execution of them. Notwithstanding every 
advantage the captain has over the seaman in point of evidence, 
friends, money, and able counsel, it becomes apparent that he must 
fail in his defence. An appeal is then made to the jury, if it is a civil 
action, or to the judge for a mitigated sentence, if it is a criminal 
prosecution, on the two grounds I have mentioned. The same form 
is usually gone through in every case. In the first place, as to the 
previous good character of the party. Witnesses are brought from 
the town in which he resides, to testify to his good character, and to 
his unexceptionable conduct when on shore. They say that he is a 
good father, or husband, or son, or neighbor, and that they never 
saw in him any signs of a cruel or tyrannical disposition. I have even 
known evidence admitted to show the character he bore when a boy 
at school. The owners of the vessel, and other merchants, and per- 
haps the president of the insurance company, are then introduced; 



366 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

and they testify to his correct deportment, express their confidence 
in his honesty, and say that they have never seen anything in his 
conduct to justify a suspicion of his being capable of cruelty or 
tyranny. This evidence is then put together, and great stress is 
laid upon the extreme respectability of those who give it. They are 
the companions and neighbors of the captain, it is said, — men who 
know him in his business and domestic relations, and who knew him 
in his early youth. They are also men of the highest standing in the 
community, and who, as the captain's employers, must be supposed 
to know his character. This testimony is then contrasted with that 
of some half dozen obscure sailors, who, the counsel will not forget 
to add, are exasperated against the captain because he has found 
it necessary to punish them moderately, and who have combined 
against him, and if they have not fabricated a story entirely, have 
at least so exaggerated it, that little confidence can be placed in it. 

The next thing to be done is to show to the court and jury that 
the captain is a poor man, and has a wife and family, or other 
friends, depending upon him for support; that if he is fined, it will 
only be taking bread from the mouths of the innocent and helpless, 
and laying a burden upon them which their whole lives will not 
be able to work off; and that if he is imprisoned, the confinement, 
to be sure, he will have to bear, but the distress consequent upon 
the cutting him off from his labor and means of earning his wages, 
will fall upon a poor wife and helpless children, or upon an infirm 
parent. These two topics, well put, and urged home earnestly, 
seldom fail of their effect. 

In deprecation of this mode of proceeding, and in behalf of men 
who I believe are every day wronged by it, I would urge a few 
considerations which seem to me to be conclusive. 

First, as to the evidence of the good character the captain sustains 
on shore. It is to be remembered that masters of vessels have usually 
been brought up in a forecastle; and upon all men, and especially 
upon those taken from lower situations, the conferring of absolute 
power is too apt to work a great change. There are many captains 
whom I know to be cruel and tyrannical men at sea, who yet, among 
their friends, and in their families, have never lost the reputation 
they bore in childhood. In fact, the sea<aptain is seldom at home, 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 367 

and when he is, his stay is short, and during the continuance o£ it 
he is surrounded by friends who treat him with kindness and con- 
sideration, and he has everything to please, and at the same time 
to restrain him. He would be a brute indeed, if, after an absence 
of months or years, during his short stay, so short that the novelty 
and excitement of it has hardly time to wear off, and the attentions 
he receives as a visitor and stranger hardly time to slacken, — if, 
under such circumstances, a townsman or neighbor would be justi- 
fied in testifying against his correct and peaceable deportment. 
With the owners of the vessel, also, to which he is attached, and 
among merchants and insurers generally, he is a very different 
man from what he may be at sea, when his own master, and the 
master of everybody and everything about him. He knows that 
upon such men, and their good opinion of him, he depends for his 
bread. So far from their testimony being of any value in determining 
what his conduct would be at sea, one would expect that the 
master who would abuse and impose upon a man under his power, 
would be the most compliant and deferential to his employers at 
home. 

As to the appeal made in the captain's behalf on the ground of 
his being poor and having persons depending upon his labor for 
support, the main and fatal objection to it is, that it will cover every 
case of the kind, and exempt nearly the whole body of masters and 
officers from the punishment the law has provided for them. There 
are very few, if any masters or other officers of merchantmen in our 
country, who are not poor men, and having either parents, wives, 
children, or other relatives, depending mainly or wholly upon their 
exertions for support in life. Few others follow the sea for sub- 
sistence. Now if this appeal is to have weight with courts in 
diminishing the penalty the law would otherwise inflict, is not the 
whole class under a privilege which will, in a degree, protect it in 
wrong-doing? It is not a thing that happens now and then. It is 
the invariable appeal, the last resort, of counsel, when everything 
else has failed. I have known cases of the most flagrant nature, 
where after every effort has been made for the captain, and yet a 
verdict rendered against him, and all other hope failed, this appeal 
has been urged, and with such success that the punishment has 



368 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

been reduced to something little more than nominal, the court not 
seeming to consider that it might be made in almost every such 
case that could come before them. It is a little singular, too, that 
it seems to be confined to cases of shipmasters and officers. No one 
ever heard of a sentence, for an offence committed on shore, being 
reduced by the court on the ground of the prisoner's poverty, and 
the relation in which he may stand to third persons. On the con- 
trary, it had been thought that the certainty that disgrace and 
suffering vi^ill be brought upon others as well as himself, is one of 
the chief restraints upon the criminally disposed. Besides, this 
course works a pecuUar hardship in the case of the sailor. For if 
poverty is the point in question, the sailor is the poorer of the two; 
and if there is a man on earth who depends upon whole limbs and 
an unbroken spirit for support, it is the sailor. He, too, has friends 
to whom his hard earnings may be a relief, and whose hearts will 
bleed at any cruelty or indignity practised upon him. Yet I never 
knew this side of the case to be once adverted to in these arguments 
addressed to the leniency of the court, which are now so much in 
vogue; and certainly they are never allowed a moment's con- 
sideration when a sailor is on trial for revolt, or for an injury done 
to an officer. Notwithstanding the many difficulties which lie in a 
seaman's way in a court of justice, presuming that they will be 
modified in time, there would be little to complain of, were it not 
for these two appeals. 

It is no cause of complaint that the testimony of seamen against 
their officers is viewed with suspicion, and that great allowance is 
made for combinations and exaggeration. On the contrary, it is 
the judge's duty to charge the jury on these points strongly. But 
there is reason for objection, when, after a strict cross-examination 
of witnesses, after the arguments of counsel, and the judge's charge, 
a verdict is found against the master, that the court should allow 
the practice of hearing appeals to its lenity, supported solely by evi- 
dence of the captain's good conduct when on shore, (especially where 
the case is one in which no evidence but that of sailors could have 
been brought against the accused), and then, on this ground, 
and on the invariable claims of the wife and family, be induced 
to cut down essentially the penalty imposed by a statute made 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 369 

expressly for masters and ofEcers of merchantmen, and for no 
one else. 

There are many particulars connected with the manning of ves- 
sels, the provisions given to crews, and the treatment of them while 
at sea, upon which there might be a good deal said; but as I have, 
for the most part, remarked upon them as they came up in the 
course of my narrative, I will offer nothing further now, except on 
the single point of the manner of shipping men. This, it is well 
known, is usually left entirely to the shipping-masters, and is a 
cause of a great deal of difficulty, which might be remedied by the 
captain, or owner, if he has any knowledge of seamen, attending to 
it personally. One of the members of the firm to which our ship 

belonged, Mr. S , had been himself a master of a vessel, and 

generally selected the crew from a number sent down to him from 
the shipping-office. In this way he almost always had healthy, serv- 
iceable, and respectable men; for any one who has seen much of 
sailors can tell pretty well at first sight, by a man's dress, counte- 
nance, and deportment, what he would be on board ship. This 
same gentleman was also in the habit of seeing the crew together, 
and speaking to them previously to their sailing. On the day 
before our ship sailed, while the crew were getting their chests 
and clothes on board, he went down into the forecastle and spoke 
to them about the voyage, the clothing they would need, the 
provision he had made for them, and saw that they had a lamp and 
a few other conveniences. If owners or masters would more gen- 
erally take the same pains, they would often save their crews a good 
deal of inconvenience, beside creating a sense of satisfaction and 
gratitude, which makes a voyage begin under good auspices, and 
goes far toward keeping up a better state of feeling throughout its 
continuance. 

It only remains for me now to speak of the associated public 
efforts which have been making of late years for the good of seamen : 
a far more agreeable task than that of finding fault, even where 
fault there is. The exertions of the general association, called the 
American Seamen's Friend Society, and of the other smaller soci- 
eties throughout the Union, have been a true blessing to the seaman; 
and bid fair, in course of time, to change the whole nature of the 



370 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

circumstances in which he is placed, and give him a new name, 
as well as a new character. These associations have taken hold in 
the right way, and aimed both at making the sailor's life more 
comfortable and creditable, and at giving him spiritual instruction. 
Connected with these efforts, the spread of temperance among sea- 
men, by means of societies, called, in their own nautical language, 
Windward- Anchor Societies, and the distribution of books; the es- 
tablishment of Sailors' Homes, where they can be comfortably and 
cheaply boarded, live quietly and decently, and be in the way of 
religious services, reading and conversation; also the institution of 
Savings Banks for Seamen; the distribution of tracts and Bibles; — 
are all means which are silently doing a great work for this class 
of men. These societies make the religious instruction of seamen 
their prominent object. If this is gained, there is no fear but that 
all other things necessary will be added unto them. A sailor never 
becomes interested in religion, without immediately learning to 
read, if he did not know how before; and regular habits, forehand- 
edness (if I may use the word) in worldly affairs, and hours re- 
claimed from indolence and vice, which follow in the wake of the 
converted man, make it sure that he will instruct himself in the 
knowledge necessary and suitable to his calling. The religious 
change is the great object. If this is secured, there is no fear but 
that knowledge of things of the world will come in fast enough. 
With the sailor, as with all other men in fact, the cultivation of 
the intellect, and the spread of what is commonly called useful 
knowledge, while religious instruction is neglected, is little else than 
changing an ignorant sinner into an intelligent and powerful one. 
That sailor upon whom, of all others, the preaching of the Cross is 
least likely to have effect, is the one whose understanding has been 
cultivated, while his heart has been left to its own devices. I fully 
believe that those efforts which have their end in the intellectual 
cultivation of the sailor; in giving him scientific knowledge; putting 
it in his power to read everything, without securing, first of all, a 
right heart which shall guide him in judgment; in giving him 
political information, and interesting him in newspapers; — an end 
in the furtherance of which he is exhibited at ladies' fairs and public 
meetings, and complimented for his gallantry and generosity, — are 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 37I 

all doing a harm which the labors of many faithful men cannot 
undo. 

The establishment of Bethels in most of our own seaports, and 
in many foreign ports frequented by our vessels, where the gospel 
is regularly preached and the opening of "Sailors' Homes," which I 
have before mentioned, where there are usually religious services 
and other good influences, are doing a vast deal in this cause. But 
it is to be remembered that the sailor's home is on the deep. Nearly 
all his life must be spent on board ship; and to secure a religious in- 
fluence there, should be the great object. The distribution of Bibles 
and tracts into cabins and forecastles, will do much toward this. 
There is nothing which will gain a sailor's attention sooner, and 
interest him more deeply, than a tract, especially one which con- 
tains a story. It is difficult to engage their attention in mere essays 
and arguments, but the simplest and shortest story, in which home 
is spoken of, kind friends, a praying mother or sister, a sudden 
death, and the like, often touches the heart of the roughest and 
most abandoned. The Bible is to the sailor a sacred book. It may 
lie in the bottom of his chest, voyage after voyage; but he never 
treats it with positive disrespect. I never knew but one sailor who 
doubted its being the inspired word of God; and he was one who 
had received an uncommonly good education, except that he had 
been brought up without any early religious influence. The most 
abandoned man of our crew, one Sunday morning, asked one of 
the boys to lend him his Bible. The boy said he would, but was 
afraid he would make sport of it. "No!" said the man, "I don't 
make sport of God Almighty." This is a feeling general among 
sailors, and is a good foundation for religious influence. 

A still greater gain is made whenever, by means of a captain who 
is interested in the eternal welfare of those under his command, 
there can be secured the performance of regular religious exercises, 
and the exertion, on the side of religion, of that mighty influence 
which a captain possesses for good, or for evil. There are occur- 
rences at sea which he may turn to great account, — a sudden death, 
the apprehension of danger, or the escape from it, and the like; and 
all the calls for gratitude and faith. Besides, this state of thing alters 
the whole current of feeling between the crew and their com- 



372 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

mander. His authority assumes more of the parental character; and 
kinder feeHngs exist. Godwin, though an infidel, in one of his 
novels, describing the relation in which a tutor stood to his pupil, 
says that the conviction the tutor was under, that he and his ward 
were both alike awaiting a state of eternal happiness or misery, and 
that they must appear together before the same judgment-seat, op- 
erated so upon his naturally morose disposition, as to produce a 
feeling of kindness and tenderness toward his ward, which nothing 
else could have caused. Such must be the effect upon the relation 
of master and common seaman. 

There are now many vessels sailing under such auspices, in which 
great good is done. Yet I never happened to fall in with one of 
them. I did not hear a prayer made, a chapter read in public, nor 
see anything approaching to a religious service, for two years and 
a quarter. There were, in the course of the voyage, many incidents 
which made, for the time, serious impressions upon our minds, and 
which might have been turned to our good; but there being no one 
to use the opportunity, and no services, the regular return of which 
might have kept something of the feeling alive in us, the advantage 
of them was lost, to some, perhaps, forever. 

The good which a single religious captain may do can hardly be 
calculated. In the first place, as I have said, a kinder state of feeling 
exists on board the ship. There is no profanity allowed; and the 
men are not called by any opprobrious names, which is a great thing 
with sailors. The Sabbath is observed. This gives the men a day of 
rest, even if they pass it in no other way. Such a captain, too, will 
not allow a sailor on board his ship to remain unable to read his 
Bible and the books given to him; and will usually instruct those 
who need it, in writing, arithmetic, and navigation; since he has 
a good deal of time on his hands, which he can easily employ in 
such a manner. He will also have regular religious services; and, 
in fact, by the power of his example, and, where it can judiciously 
be done, by the exercise of his authority, will give a character to 
the ship and all on board. In foreign ports, a ship is known by 
her captain; for, there being no general rules in the merchant serv- 
ice, each master may adopt a plan of his own. It is to be remem- 
bered, too, that there are, in most ships, boys of a tender age, whose 



TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST 373 

characters for life are forming, as well as old men, whose lives must 
be drawing toward a close. The greater part of sailors die at sea; 
and when they find their end approaching, if it does not, as is often 
the case, come without warning, they cannot, as on shore, send for 
a clergyman, or some religious friend, to speak to them of that hope 
in a Saviour, which they have neglected, if not despised, through 
life; but if the little hull does not contain such an one within its 
compass, they must be left without human aid in their great ex- 
tremity. When such commanders and such ships, as I have just 
described, shall become more numerous, the hope of the friends of 
seamen will be greatly strengthened; and it is encouraging to re- 
member that the efforts among common sailors will soon raise up 
such a class; for those of them who are brought under these influ- 
ences will inevitably be the ones to succeed to the places of trust 
and authority. If there is on earth an instance where a little leaven 
may leaven the whole lump, it is that of the religious shipmaster. 

It is to the progress of this work among seamen that we must 
look with the greatest confidence for the remedying of those nu- 
merous minor evils and abuses that we so often hear of. It will 
raise the character of sailors, both as individuals and as a class. It 
will give weight to their testimony in courts of justice, secure better 
usage to them on board ship, and add comforts to their lives on 
shore and at sea. There are some laws that can be passed to remove 
temptation from their way and to help them in their progress; and 
some changes in the jurisdiction of the lower courts, to prevent 
delays, may, and probably will, be made. But, generally speaking, 
more especially in things which concern the discipline of ships, we 
had better labor in this great work, and view with caution the 
proposal of new laws and arbitrary regulations, remembering that 
most of those concerned in the making of them must necessarily be 
little qualified to judge of their operation. 

Without any formal dedication of my narrative to that body of 
men, of whose common life it is intended to be a picture, I have yet 
borne them constantly in mind during its preparation. I cannot but 
trust that those of them, into whose hands it may chance to fall, 
will find in it that which shall render any professions of sympathy 
and good wishes on my part unnecessary. And I will take the lib- 



374 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

erty, on parting with my reader, who has gone down with us to the 
ocean, and "laid his hand upon its mane," to commend to his kind 
wishes, and to the benefit of his efforts, that class of men with 
whom, for a time, my lot was cast. I wish the rather to do this, 
since I feel that whatever attention this book may gain, and what- 
ever favor it may find, I shall owe almost entirely to that interest 
in the sea, and those who follow it, which is so easily excited in us all. 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 

IT WAS in the winter of 1835-6 that the ship Alert, in the pros- 
ecution o£ her voyage for hides on the remote and almost 
unknown coast of California, floated into the vast solitude of 
the Bay of San Francisco. All around was the stillness of nature. 
One vessel, a Russian, lay at anchor there, but during our whole 
stay not a sail came or went. Our trade was with remote Missions, 
which sent hides to us in launches manned by their Indians. Our 
anchorage was between a small island, called Yerba Buena, and a 
gravel beach in a little bight or cove of the same name, formed by 
two small projecting points. Beyond, to the westward of the landing- 
place, were dreary sand-hills, with little grass to be seen, and few 
trees, and beyond them higher hills, steep and barren, their sides 
gullied by the rains. Some five or six miles beyond the landing-place, 
to the right, was a ruinous Presidio, and some three or four miles to 
the left was the Mission of Dolores, as ruinous as the Presidio, 
almost deserted, with but few Indians attached to it, and but little 
property in cattle. Over a region far beyond our sight there were 
no other human habitations, except that an enterprising Yankee, 
years in advance of his time, had put up, on the rising ground 
above the landing, a shanty of rough boards, where he carried on 
a very small retail trade between the hide ships and the Indians. 
Vast banks of fog, invading us from the North Pacific, drove in 
through the entrance, and covered the whole bay; and when they 
disappeared, we saw a few well-wooded islands, the sand-hills on 
the west, the grassy and wooded slopes on the east, and the vast 
stretch of the bay to the southward, where we were told lay the 
Missions of Santa Clara and San Jose, and still longer stretches to 
the northward and northeastward, where we understood smaller 
bays spread out, and large rivers poured in their tributes of waters. 
There were no settlements on these bays or rivers, and the few 
ranchos and Missions were remote and widely separated. Not only 

375 



376 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

the neighborhood of our anchorage, but the entire region of the 
great bay, was a solitude. On the whole coast of California there 
was not a lighthouse, a beacon, or a buoy, and the charts were made 
up from old and disconnected surveys by British, Russian, and Mex- 
ican voyagers. Birds of prey and passage swooped and dived about 
us, wild beasts ranged through the oak groves, and as we slowly 
floated out of the harbor with the tide, herds of deer came to the 
water's edge, on the northerly side of the entrance, to gaze at the 
strange spectacle. 

On the evening of Saturday, the 13th of August, 1859, the superb 
steamship Golden Gate, gay with crowds of passengers, and lighting 
the sea for miles around with the glare of her signal lights of red, 
green, and white, and brilliant with lighted saloons and staterooms, 
bound up from the Isthmus of Panama, neared the entrance to San 
Francisco, the great centre of a world-wide commerce. Miles out 
at sea, on the desolate rocks of the Farallones, gleamed the powerful 
rays of one of the most costly and effective light-houses in the world. 
As we drew in through the Golden Gate, another light-house met 
our eyes, and in the clear moonlight of the unbroken California 
summer we saw, on the right, a large fortification protecting the 
narrow entrance, and just before us the little island of Alcatraz con- 
fronted us, — one entire fortress. We bore round the point toward 
the old anchoring-ground of the hide ships, and there, covering the 
sand-hills and the valleys, stretching from the water's edge to the 
base of the great hills, and from the old Presidio to the Mission, 
flickering all over with the lamps of its streets and houses, lay a city 
of one hundred thousand inhabitants. Clocks tolled the hour of 
midnight from its steeples, but the city was alive from the salute of 
our guns, spreading the news that the fortnightly steamer had come, 
bringing mails and passengers from the Atlantic world. Clipper 
ships of the largest size lay at anchor in the stream, or were girt to 
the wharves; and capacious high-pressure steamers, as large and 
showy as those of the Hudson or Mississippi, bodies of dazzling light, 
awaited the delivery of our mails to take their courses up the Bay, 
stopping at Benicia and the United States Naval Station, and then 
up the great tributaries— the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Feather 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 377 

Rivers — to the far inland cities of Sacramento, Stockton, and Marys- 
ville. 

The dock into which we drew, and the streets about it, were 
densely crowded with express wagons and hand-carts to take lug- 
gage, coaches and cabs for passengers, and with men, — some looking 
out for friends among our hundreds of passengers, — agents of the 
press, and a greater multitude eager for newspapers and verbal intel- 
ligence from the great Atlantic and European world. Through this 
crowd I made my way, along the well-built and well-lighted streets, 
as alive as by day, where boys in high-keyed voices were already 
crying the latest New York papers; and between one and two 
o'clock in the morning found myself comfortably abed in a com- 
modious room, in the Oriental Hotel, which stood, as well as I could 
learn, on the filled-up cove, and not far from the spot where we 
used to beach our boats from the Alert. 

Sunday, August i^th. When I awoke in the morning, and looked 
from my windows over the city of San Francisco, with its store- 
houses, towers, and steeples; its court-houses, theatres, and hos- 
pitals; its daily journals; its well-filled learned professions; its 
fortresses and light-houses; its wharves and harbor, with their thou- 
sand-ton clipper ships, more in number than London or Liverpool 
sheltered that day, itself one of the capitals of the American Re- 
public, and the sole emporium of a new world, the awakened 
Pacific; when I looked across the bay to the eastward, and beheld 
a beautiful town on the fertile, wooded shores of the Contra Costa, 
and steamers, large and small, the ferryboats to the Contra Costa, 
and capacious freighters and passenger-carriers to all parts of the 
great bay and its tributaries, with lines of their smoke in the horizon, 
— when I saw all these things, and reflected on what I once was and 
saw here, and what now surrounded me, I could scarcely keep my 
hold on reality at all, or the genuineness of anything, and seemed 
to myself like one who had moved in "worlds not realized." 

I could not complain that I had not a choice of places of worship. 
The Roman Catholics have an archbishop, a cathedral, and five or 
six smaller churches, French, German, Spanish, and English; and 
the Episcopalians, a bishop, a cathedral, and three other churches; 



378 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

the Methodists and Presbyterians have three or four each, and there 
are Congregationalists, Baptists, a Unitarian, and other societies. 
On my way to church, I met two classmates of mine at Harvard 
standing in a door-way, one a lawyer and the other a teacher, and 
made appointments for a future meeting. A little farther on I came 
upon another Harvard man, a fine scholar and wit, and full of 
cleverness and good-humor, who invited me to go to breakfast with 
him at the French house, — he was a bachelor, and a late riser on 
Sundays. I asked him to show me the way to Bishop Kip's church. 
He hesitated, looked a little confused, and admitted that he was 
not as well up in certain classes of knowledge as in others, but, by 
a desperate guess, pointed out a wooden building at the foot of 
the street, which any one might have seen could not be right, and 
which turned out to be an African Baptist meeting-house. But my 
friend had many capital points of character, and I owed much of 
the pleasure of my visit to his attentions. 

The congregation at the Bishop's church was precisely like one you 
would meet in New York, Philadelphia, or Boston. To be sure, the 
identity of the service makes one feel at once at home, but the 
people were alike, nearly all of the English race, though from all 
parts of the Union. The latest French bonnets were at the head of 
the chief pews, and business men at the foot. The music was with- 
out character, but there was an instructive sermon, and the church 
was full. 

I found that there were no services at any of the Protestant 
churches in the afternoon. They have two services on Sunday; at 
II A. M., and after dark. The afternoon is spent at home, or in 
friendly visiting, or teaching of Sunday Schools, or other humane 
and social duties. 

This is as much the practice with what at home are called the 
strictest denominations as with any others. Indeed, I found indi- 
viduals, as well as public bodies, affected in a marked degree by a 
change of oceans and by California life. One Sunday afternoon I ' 
was surprised at receiving the card of a man whom I had last known, 
some fifteen years ago, as a strict and formal deacon of a Congre- 
gational Society in New England. He was a deacon still, in San 
Francisco, a leader in all pious works, devoted to his denomination 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 379 

and to total abstinence, — the same internally, but externally — ^what 
a change! Gone was the downcast eye, the bated breath, the solemn, 
non-natural voice, the watchful gait, stepping as i£ he felt respon- 
sible for the balance of the moral universe! He walked with a 
stride, an uplifted open countenance, his face covered with beard, 
whiskers, and mustache, his voice strong and natural, — and, in 
short, he had put off the New England deacon and become a human 
being. In a visit of an hour I learned much from him about the 
religious societies, the moral reforms, the "Dashaways," — total ab- 
stinence societies, which had taken strong hold on the young and 
wilder parts of society, — and then of the Vigilance Committee, of 
which he was a member, and of more secular points of interest. 

In one of the parlors of the hotel, I saw a man of about sixty years 
of age, with his feet bandaged and resting in a chair, whom some- 
body addressed by the name of Lies.' Lies! thought I, that must 
be the man who came across the country from Kentucky to Mon- 
terey while we lay there in the Pilgrim in 1835, and made a passage 
in the Alert, when he used to shoot with his rifle bottles hung from 
the top-gallant studding-sail-boom-ends. He married the beautiful 
Dona Rosalia Vallejo, sister of Don Guadalupe. There were the 
old high features and sandy hair. I put my chair beside him, and 
began conversation, as any one may do in California. Yes, he was 
the Mr. Lies; and when I gave my name he professed at once to 
remember me, and spoke of my book. I found that almost — I might 
perhaps say quite — every American in California had read it; for 
when California "broke out," as the phrase is, in 1848, and so large 
a portion of the Anglo-Saxon race flocked to it, there was no book 
upon California but mine. Many who were on the coast at the time 
the book refers to, and afterwards read it, and remembered the Pil- 
grim and Alert, thought they also remembered me. But perhaps 
more did remember me than I was inclined at first to believe, for 
the novelty of a collegian coming out before the mast had drawn 
more attention to me than I was aware of at the time. 

Late in the afternoon, as there were vespers at the Roman Cath- 
olic churches, I went to that of Notre Dame des Victoires. The 
congregation was French, and a sermon in French was preached 

'Pronounced Leese. 



380 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

by an Abbe; the music was excellent, all things airy and tasteful, 
and making one feel as if in one of the chapels in Paris. The 
Cathedral of St. Mary, which I afterwards visited, where the Irish 
attend, was a contrast indeed, and more like one of our stifling 
Irish Catholic churches in Boston or New York, with intelligence 
in so small a proportion to the number of faces. During the three 
Sundays I was in San Francisco, I visited three of the Episcopal 
churches, and the Congregational, a Chinese Mission Chapel, and 
on the Sabbath (Saturday) a Jewish synagogue. The Jews are a 
wealthy and powerful class here. The Chinese, too, are numerous, 
and do a great part of the manual labor and small shop-keeping, and 
have some wealthy mercantile houses. 

It is noticeable that European Continental fashions prevail gen- 
erally in this city, — French cooking, lunch at noon, and dinner at 
the end of the day, with cafe noir after meals, and to a great extent 
the European Sunday, — to all which emigrants from the United 
States and Great Britain seem to adapt themselves. Some dinners 
which were given to me at French restaurants were, it seemed to 
me, — a poor judge of such matters, to be sure, — as sumptuous and 
as good, in dishes and wines, as I have found in Paris. But I had 
a relish-maker which my friends at table did not suspect, — the 
remembrance of the forecastle dinners I ate here twenty-four years 
before. 

August lyth. The customs of Calif o.^nia are free; and any per- 
son who knows about my book speaks to me. The newspapers have 
announced the arrival of the veteran pioneer of all. I hardly walk 
out without meeting or making acquaintances. I have already been 
invited to deliver the anniversary oration before the Pioneer Society, 
to celebrate the settlement of San Francisco. Any man is qualified for 
election into the society who came to California before 1853. What 
moderns they are! I tell them of the time when Richardson's shanty 
of 1835 — not his adobe house of 1836 — was the only human habita- 
tion between the Mission and the Presidio, and when the vast bay, 
with all its tributaries and recesses, was a solitude, — and yet I am 
but little past forty years of age. They point out the place where 
Richardson's adobe house stood, and tell me that the first court and 
first town council were convened in it, the first Protestant worship 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 38 1 

performed in it, and in it the first capital trial by the Vigilance 
Committee held. I am taken down to the wharves, by antiquaries 
of a ten or twelve years' range, to identify the two points, now 
known as Clark's and Rincon, which formed the little cove of Yerba 
Buena, where we used to beach our boats, — now filled up and built 
upon. The island we called "Wood Island," where we spent the 
cold days and nights of December, in our launch, getting wood for 
our year's supply, is clean shorn of trees; and the bare rocks of Al- 
catraz Island, an entire fortress. I have looked at the city from the 
water and islands from the city, but I can see nothing that recalls the 
times gone by, except the venerable Mission, the ruinous Presidio, 
the high hills in the rear of the town, and the great stretches of the 
bay in all directions. 

To-day I took a California horse of the old style, — the run, the 
loping gait, — and visited the Presidio. The walls stand as they did, 
with some changes made to accommodate a small garrison of United 
States troops. It has a noble situation, and I saw from it a clipper 
ship of the very largest class, coming through the Gate, under her 
fore-and-aft sails. Thence I rode to the Fort, now nearly finished, 
on the southern shore of the Gate, and made an inspection of it. It 
is very expensive and of the latest style. One of the engineers here 
is Custis Lee, who has just left West Point at the head of his class, — 
a son of Colonel Robert E. Lee, who distinguished himself in the 
Mexican War. 

Another morning I ride to the Mission Dolores. It has a strangely 
solitary aspect, enhanced by its surroundings of the most uncon- 
genial, rapidly growing modernisms; the hoar of ages surrounded 
by the brightest, slightest, and rapidest of modern growths. Its old 
belfries still clanged with the discordant bells, and Mass was saying 
within, for it is used as a place of worship for the extreme south part 
of the city. 

In one of my walks about the wharves, I found a pile of dry hides 
lying by the side of a vessel. Here was something to feelingly per- 
suade me what I had been, to recall a past scarce credible to myself. 
I stood lost in reflection. What were these hides — what were they 
not? — to us, to me, a boy, twenty-four years ago? These were our 
constant labor, our chief object, our almost habitual thought. They 



382 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

brought us out here, they kept us here, and it was only by getting 
them that we could escape from the coast and return to home and 
civilized life. If it had not been that I might be seen, I should 
have seized one, slung it over my head, walked ofl with it, and 
thrown it by the old toss — I do not believe yet a lost art — ^to the 
ground. How they called up to my mind the months of curing at 
San Diego, the year and more of beach and surf work, and the 
steering of the ship for home! I was in a dream of San Diego, San 
Pedro, — with its hills so steep for taking up goods, and its stones 
so hard to our bare feet, — and the cliffs of San Juan! All this, too, 
is no more! The entire hide-business is of the past, and to the 
present inhabitants of California a dim tradition. The gold dis- 
coveries drew off all men from the gathering or cure of hides, the 
inflowing population made an end of the great droves of cattle; and 
now not a vessel pursues the — I was about to say dear — the dreary 
once hated business of gathering hides upon the coast, and the 
beach of San Diego is abandoned and its hide-houses have disap- 
peared. Meeting a respectable-looking citizen on the wharf, I in- 
quired of him how the hide-trade was carried on. "O," said he, 
"there is very Httle of it, and that is all here. The few that are 
brought in are placed under sheds in winter, or left out on the 
wharf in summer, and are loaded from the wharves into the vessels 
alongside. They form parts of cargoes of other materials." I really 
felt too much, at the instant, to express to him the cause of my 
interest in the subject, and only added, "Then the old business of 
trading up and down the coast and curing hides for cargoes is all 
over?" "O yes, sir," said he, "those old times of the Pilgrim and 
Alert and California, that we read about, are gone by." 

Saturday, August 20th. The steamer Senator makes regular trips 
up and down the coast, between San Francisco and San Diego, call- 
ing at intermediate ports. This is my opportunity to revisit the old 
scenes. She sails to-day, and I am off, steaming among the great 
chppers anchored in the harbor, and gliding rapidly round the 
point, past Alcatraz Island, the light-house, and through the fortified 
Golden Gate, and bending to the southward, — all done in two or 
three hours, which, in the Alert, under canvas, with head tides, 
variable winds, and sweeping currents to deal with, took us full 
two days. 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 383 

Among the passengers I noticed an elderly gentleman, thin, with 
sandy hair and face that seemed famiUar. He took off his glove and 
showed one shrivelled hand. It must be he! I went to him and said, 
"Captain Wilson, I believe." Yes, that was his name. "I knew you, 
sir, when you commanded the Ayacucho on this coast, in old hide- 
droghing times, in 1835-6." He was quickened by this, and at once 
inquiries were made on each side, and we were in full talk about 
the Pilgrim and Alert, Ayacucho and Loriotte, the California and 
Lagoda. I found he had been very much flattered by the praise I 
had bestowed in my book on his seamanship, especially in bringing 
the Pilgrim to her berth in San Diego harbor, after she had drifted 
successively into the Lagoda and Loriotte, and was coming into him. 
I had made a pet of his brig, the Ayacucho, which pleased him 
almost as much as my remembrance of his bride and their wedding, 
which I saw at Santa Barbara in 1836. Dona Ramona was now the 
mother of a large family, and Wilson assured me that if I would 
visit him at his rancho, near San Luis Obispo, I should find her 
still a handsome woman, and very glad to see me. How we walked 
the deck together, hour after hour, talking over the old times, — the 
ships, the captains, the crews, the traders on shore, the ladies, the 
Missions, the south-easters! indeed, where could we stop? He had 
sold the Ayacucho in Chili for a vessel of war, and had given up the 
sea, and had been for years a ranchero. (I learned from others that 
he had become one of the most wealthy and respectable farmers in 
the State, and that his rancho was well worth visiting.) Thompson, 
he said, hadn't the sailor in him; and he never could laugh enough 
at his fiasco in San Diego, and his reception by Bradshaw. Faucon 
was a sailor and a navigator. He did not know what had become 
of George Marsh {ante, pp. 199-202, 252), except that he left him 
in Callao; nor could he tell me anything of handsome Bill Jackson 
{ante, p. 86), nor of Captain Nye of the Loriotte. I told him all I 
then knew of the ships, the masters, and the officers. I found he 
had kept some run of my history, and needed little information. Old 
Seiior Noriego of Santa Barbara, he told me, was dead, and Don 
Carlos and Don Santiago, but I should find their children there, 
now in middle Ufe. Dona Augustia, he said, I had made famous 
by my praises of her beauty and dancing, and I should have from 
her a royal reception. She had been a widow, and remarried since, 



384 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

and had a daughter as handsome as herself. The descendants of 
Noriego had taken the ancestral name of De la Guerra, as they 
were nobles of Old Spain by birth; and the boy Pablo, who used 
to make passages in the Alert, was now Don Pablo de la Guerra, a 
Senator in the State Legislature for Santa Barbara County. 

The points in the country, too, he noticed, as he passed them, — 
Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Point Ano Nuevo, the opening to 
Monterey, which to my disappointment we did not visit. No; Mon- 
terey, the prettiest town on the coast, and its capital and seat of 
customs, had got no advantage from the great changes, was out 
of the way of commerce and of the travel to the mines and great 
rivers, and was not worth stopping at. Point Conception we passed 
in the night, a cheery light gleaming over the waters from its tall 
light-house, standing on its outermost peak. Point Conception! That 
word was enough to recall all our experiences and dreads of gales, 
swept decks, topmast carried away, and the hardships of a coast 
service in the winter. But Captain Wilson tells me that the climate 
has altered; that the southeasters are no longer the bane of the coast 
they once were, and that vessels now anchor inside the kelp at Santa 
Barbara and San Pedro all the year round. I should have thought 
this owing to his spending his winters on a rancho instead of the 
deck of the Ayacucho, had not the same thing been told me by 
others. 

Passing round Point Conception, and steering easterly, we opened 
the islands that form, wdth the main-land, the canal of Santa Bar- 
bara. There they are, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa; and there is the 
beautiful point, Santa Buenaventura; and there lies Santa Barbara 
on its plain, with its amphitheatre of high hills and distant moun- 
tains. There is the old white Mission with its belfries, and there 
the town, with its one-story adobe houses, with here and there a 
two-story wooden house of later build; yet little is it altered, — the 
same repose in the golden sunUght and glorious climate, sheltered 
by its hills; and then, more remindful than anything else, there 
roars and tumbles upon the beach the same grand surf of the great 
Pacific as on the beautiful day when the Pilgrim, after her five 
months' voyage, dropped her weary anchors here; the same bright 
blue ocean, and the surf making just the same monotonous, melan- 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 385 

choly roar, and the same dreamy town, and gleaming white Mission, 
as when we beached our boats for the first time, riding over the 
breakers with shouting Kanakas, the three small hide-traders lying 
at anchor in the offing. But now we are the only vessel, and that 
an unromantic, sail-less, spar-less, engine-driven hulk! 

I landed in the surf, in the old style, but it was not high enough 
to excite us, the only change being that I was somehow unac- 
countably a passenger, and did not have to jump overboard and 
steady the boat, and run her up by the gunwales. 

Santa Barbara has gained but little. I should not know, from any- 
thing I saw, that she was now a seaport of the United States, a 
part of the enterprising Yankee nation, and not still a lifeless Mex- 
ican town. At the same old house, where Sefior Noriego lived, on 
the piazza in front of the court-yard, where was the gay scene of the 
marriage of our agent, Mr. Robinson, to Dona Anita, where Don 
Juan Bandini and Dona Augustia danced, Don Pablo de la Guerra 
received me in a courtly fashion. I passed the day with the family, 
and in walking about the place; and ate th« old dinner with its 
accompaniments of frijoles, native olives, and grapes, and native 
wines. In due time I paid my respects to Dona -/^ ugustia, and not- 
withstanding what Wilson told me, I could hardly b<^lieve that after 
twenty-four years there would still be so much of *.h'i enchanting 
woman about her. 

She thanked me for the kind and, as she called them, greatly exag- 
gerated compliments I had paid her; and her daughter told me that 
all travellers who came to Santa Barbara called to see her mother, 
and that she herself never expected to live long enough to be a 
belle. 

Mr. Alfred Robinson, our agent in 1835-6, was here, with a part of 
his family. I did not know how he would receive me, remembering 
what I had printed to the world about him at a time when I took 
little thought that the world was going to read it; but there was no 
sign of offence, only cordiality which gave him, as between us, rather 
the advantage in status. 

The people of this region are giving attention to sheep-raising, 
wine-making, and the raising of olives, just enough to keep the 
town from going backwards. 



386 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

But evening is drawing on, and our boat sails to-night. So, refus- 
ing a horse or carriage, I walk down, not unwilling to be a little 
early, that I may pace up and down the beach, looking off to the 
islands and the points, and watching the roaring, tumbling billows. 
How softening is the effect of time! It touches us through the 
affections. I almost feel as if I were lamenting the passing away 
of something loved and dear, — the boats, the Kanakas, the hides, my 
old shipmates. Death, change, distance, lend them a character which 
makes them quite another thing from the vulgar, wearisome toil of 
uninteresting, forced manual labour. 

The breeze freshened as we stood out to sea, and the wild waves 
rolled over the red sun, on the broad horizon of the Pacific; but it is 
summer, and in summer there can be no bad weather in California. 
Every day is pleasant. Nature forbids a drop of rain to fall by 
day or night, or a wind to excite itself beyond a fresh summer breeze. 

The next morning we found ourselves at anchor in the Bay of San 
Pedro. Here was this hated, this thoroughly detested spot. Although 
we lay near, I could scarce recognize the hill up which we rolled 
and dragged and pushed and carried our heavy loads, and down 
which we pitched the hides, to carry them barefooted over the rocks 
to the floating long-boat. It was no longer the landing-place. One 
had been made at the head of the creek, and boats discharged and 
took off cargoes from a mole or wharf, in a quiet place, safe from 
southeasters. A tug ran to take off passengers from the steamer to 
the wharf, — ^for the trade of Los Angeles is sufficient to support 
such a vessel. I got the captain to land me privately, in a small 
boat, at the old place by the hill. I dismissed the boat, and, alone, 
found my way to the high ground. I say found my way, for neglect 
and weather had left but few traces of the steep road the hide-vessels 
had built to the top. The cliff off which we used to throw the hides, 
and where I spent nights watching them, was more easily found. 
The population was doubled, that is to say, there were two houses, 
instead of one, on the hill. I stood on the brow and looked out 
toward the offing, the Santa Catalina Island, and, nearer, the melan- 
choly Dead Man's Island, with its painful tradition, and recalled 
the gloomy days that followed the flogging, and fancied the Pilgrim 
at anchor in the offing. But the tug is going toward our steamer, 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 387 

and I must awake and be off. I walked along the shore to the new 
landing-place, where were two or three store-houses and other build- 
ings, forming a small depot; and a stage-coach, I found, went daily 
between this place and the Pueblo. I got a seat on the top of the 
coach, to which were tackled six little less than wild California horses. 
Each horse had a man at his head, and when the driver had got his 
reins in hand he gave the word, all the horses were let go at once, 
and away they went on a spring, tearing over the ground, the driver 
only keeping them from going the wrong way, for they had a wide, 
level pampa to run over the whole thirty miles to the Pueblo. This 
plain is almost treeless, with no grass, at least none now in the 
drought of mid-summer, and is filled with squirrel-holes, and alive 
with squirrels. As we changed horses twice, we did not slacken our 
speed until we turned into the streets of the Pueblo. 

The Pueblo de los Angeles I found a large and flourishing town 
of about twenty thousand inhabitants, with brick sidewalks, and 
blocks of stone or brick houses. The three principal traders when 
we were here for hides in the Pilgrim and Alert are still among the 
chief traders of the place, — Stearns, Temple, and Warner, the two 
former being reputed very rich. I dined with Mr. Stearns, now a 
very old man, and met there Don Juan Bandini, to whom I had 
given a good deal of notice in my book. From him, as indeed from 
every one in this town, I met with the kindest attentions. The wife 
of Don Juan, who was a beautiful young girl when we were on 
the coast, Doiia Refugio, daughter of Don Santiago Argiiello, the 
commandante of San Diego, was with him, and still handsome. 
This is one of several instances I have noticed of the preserving 
quality of the California climate. Here, too, was Henry Melius, 
who came out with me before the mast in the Pilgrim, and left the 
brig to be agent's clerk on shore. He had experienced varying for- 
tunes here, and was now married to a Mexican lady, and had a 
family. I dined with him, and in the afternoon he drove me round 
to see the vineyards, the chief objects in this region. The vintage of 
last year was estimated at half a million of gallons. Every year 
new square miles of ground are laid down to vineyards, and the 
Pueblo promises to be the centre of one of the largest wine-producing 
regions in the world. Grapes are a drug here, and I found a great 



388 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

abundance of figs, olives, peaches, pears, and melons. The climate is 
well suited to these fruits, but is too hot and dry for successful wheat 
crops. 

Towards evening, we started off in the stage coach, with again our 
relays of six mad horses, and reached the creek before dark, though 
it was late at night before we got on board the steamer, which was 
slowly moving her wheels, under way for San Diego. 

As we skirted along the coast, Wilson and I recognized, or thought 
we did, in the clear moonlight, the rude white Mission of San 
Juan Capistrano, and its cUff, from which I had swung down by a 
pair of halyards to save a few hides, — a boy who could not be pru- 
dential, and who caught at every chance for adventure. 

As we made the high point off San Diego, Point Loma, we were 
greeted by the cheering presence of a light-house. As we swept 
round it in the early morning, there, before us, lay the little harbor 
of San Diego, its low spit of sand, where the water runs so deep; the 
opposite flats, where the Alert grounded in starting for home; the 
low hills, without trees, and almost without brush; the quiet little 
beach; — but the chief objects, the hide-houses, my eye looked for in 
vain. They were gone, all, and left no mark behind. 

I wished to be alone, so I let the other passengers go up to the 
town, and was quietly pulled ashore in a boat, and left to myself. 
The recollections and the emotions all were sad, and only sad. 

Fugit, interea fugit irreparabile tempus. 

The past was real. The present, all about me, was unreal, unnatural, 
repellant. I saw the big ships lying in the stream, the Alert, the 
California, the Rosa, with her Italians; then the handsome Aya- 
cucho, my favorite; the poor, dear old Pilgrim, the home of hardship 
and hopelessness; the boats passing to and fro; the cries of the 
sailors at the capstan or falls; the peopled beach; the large hide- 
houses with their gangs of men; and the Kanakas interspersed 
everywhere. All, all were gone! not a vestige to mark where one 
hide-house stood. The oven, too, was gone. I searched for its site, 
and found, where I thought it should be, a few broken bricks and 
bits of mortar. I alone was left of all, and how strangely was I here! 
What changes to me I Where were they all.? Why should I care for 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 389 

them, — poor Kanakas and sailors, the refuse of civiHzation, the out- 
laws and beach-combers of the Pacific! Time and death seemed to 
transfigure them. Doubtless nearly all were dead; but how had they 
died, and where? In hospitals, in fever-climes, in dens of vice, or 
falling from the mast, or dropping exhausted from the wreck, — 

"When for a moment, like a drop of rain. 
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan. 
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown." 

The light-hearted boys are now hardened middle-aged men, if the 
seas, rocks, fevers, and the deadlier enemies that beset a sailor's life 
on shore have spared them; and the then strong men have bowed 
themselves, and the earth or sea has covered them. 

Even the animals are gone, — ^the colony of dogs, the broods of 
poultry, the useful horses; but the coyotes bark still in the woods, for 
they belong not to man, and are not touched by his changes. 

I walked slowly up the hill, finding my way among the few 
bushes, for the path was long grown over, and sat down where we 
used to rest in carrying our burdens of wood, and to look out for 
vessels that might, though so seldom, be coming down from the 
windward. 

To rally myself by calling to mind my own better fortune and 
nobler lot, and cherished surroundings at home, was impossible. 
Borne down by depression, the day being yet at its noon, and the 
sun over the old point, — it is four miles to the town, the Presidio, — 
I have walked it often, and can do it once more, — I passed the 
familiar objects, and it seemed to me that I remembered them better 
than those of any other place I had ever been in; — the opening to the 
little cave; the low hills where we cut wood and killed rattlesnakes, 
and where our dogs chased the coyotes; and the black ground 
where so many of the ship's crew and beach-combers used to bring 
up on their return at the end of a liberty day, and spend the night 
sub Jove. 

The little town of San Diego has undergone no change whatever 
that I can see. It certainly has not grown. It is still, like Santa 
Barbara, a Mexican town. The four principal houses of the gente 
de razon — of the Bandinis, Estudillos, Argiiellos, and Picos — are the 



390 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

chief houses now; but all the gentlemen — and their families, too, I 
believe — are gone. The big vulgar shop-keeper and trader. Fitch, is 
long since dead; Tom Wrightington, who kept the rival pulperia, 
fell from his horse when drunk, and was found nearly eaten up by 
coyotes; and I can scarce find a person whom I remember. I went 
into a familiar one-story adobe house, with its piazza and earthen 
floor, inhabited by a respectable lower-class family by the name of 
Muchado, and inquired if any of the family remained, when a 
bright-eyed middle-aged woman recognized me, for she had heard 
I was on board the steamer, and told me she had married a shipmate 
of mine, Jack Stewart, who went out as second mate the next voy- 
age, but left the ship and married and settled here. She said he 
wished very much to see me. In a few minutes he came in, and 
his sincere pleasure in meeting me was extremely grateful. We 
talked over old times as long as I could afford to. I was glad to hear 
that he was sober and doing well. Doiia Tomasa Pico I found and 
talked with. She was the only person of the old upper class that 
remained on the spot, if I rightly recollect. I found an American 
family here, with whom I dined, — Doyle and his wife, nice young 
people, Doyle agent for the great line of coaches to run to the fron- 
tier of the old States. 

I must complete my acts of pious remembrance, so I take a horse 
and make a run out to the old Mission, where Ben Stimson and I 
went the first liberty day we had after we left Boston {ante, p. 115). 
All has gone to decay. The buildings are unused and ruinous, and 
the large gardens show now only wild cactuses, willows, and a few 
olive-trees. A fast run brings me back in time to take leave of the 
few I knew and who knew me, and to reach the steamer before she 
sails. A last look — yes, last for life — to the beach, the hills, the low 
point, the distant town, as we round Point Loma and the first beams 
of the light-house strike out towards the setting sun. 

Wednesday, August 2/fth. At anchor at San Pedro by daylight. 
But instead of being roused out of the forecastle to row the long-boat 
ashore and bring off a load of hides before breakfast, we were served 
with breakfast in the cabin, and again took our drive with the wild 
horses to the Pueblo and spent the day; seeing nearly the same per- 
sons as before, and again getting back by dark. We steamed again 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 39 1 

for Santa Barbara, where we only lay an hour, and passed through 
its canal and round Point Conception, stopping at San Luis Obispo 
to land my friend, as I may truly call him after this long passage 
together. Captain Wilson, whose most earnest invitation to stop 
here and visit him at his rancho I was obliged to decline. 

Friday evening, 7.6th August, we entered the Golden Gate, passed 
the light-houses and forts, and clipper ships at anchor, and came to 
our dock, with this great city, on its high hills and rising surfaces, 
briUiant before us, and full of eager life. 

Making San Francisco my head-quarters, I paid visits to various 
parts of the State, — down the Bay to Santa Clara, with its live oaks 
and sycamores, and its Jesuit College for boys; and San Jose, where 
is the best girls' school in the State, kept by the Sisters of Notre 
Dame, — a town now famous for a year's session of "The legislature 
of a thousand drinks," — and thence to the rich Almaden quicksilver 
mines, returning on the Contra Costa side through the rich agri- 
cultural country, with its ranchos and the vast grants of the Castro 
and Soto families, where farming and fruit-raising are done on so 
large a scale. Another excursion was up the San Joaquin to Stock- 
ton, a town of some ten thousand inhabitants, a hundred miles from 
San Francisco, and crossing the Tuolumne and Stanislaus and Mer- 
ced, by the little Spanish town of Hornitos, and Snelling's Tavern, 
at the ford of the Merced, where so many fatal fights are had. 
Thence I went to Mariposa County, and Colonel Fremont's mines, 
and made an interesting visit to "the Colonel," as he is called all 
over the country, and Mrs. Fremont, a heroine equal to either for- 
tune, the salons of Paris and the drawing-rooms of New York 
and Washington, or the rou^Qst Me of the remote and wild mining 
regions of Mariposa, — with their fine family of spirited, clever chil- 
dren. After a rest there, we went on to Clark's Camp and the Big 
Trees, where I measured one tree ninety-seven feet in circumference 
without its bark, and the bark is usually eighteen inches thick; and 
rode through another which lay on the ground, a shell, with all the 
insides out, — rode through it mounted, and sitting at full height 
in the saddle; then to the wonderful Yo Semite Valley, — itself a 
stupendous miracle of nature, with its Dome, its Capitan, its walls 
of three thousand feet of perpendicular height, — but a valley of 



392 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

Streams, of waterfalls from the torrent to the mere shimmer of a 
bridal veil, only enough to reflect a rainbow, with their plunges of 
twenty-five hundred feet, or their smaller falls of eight hundred, 
with nothing at the base but thick mists, which form and trickle, 
and then run and at last plunge into the blue Merced that flows 
through the centre of the valley. Back by the Coulterville trail, the 
peaks of Sierra Nevada in sight, across the North Fork of the 
Merced, by Gentry's Gulch, over hills and through caiions, to 
Fremont's again, and thence to Stockton and San Francisco, — all 
this at the end of August, when there has been no rain for four 
months, and the air is clear and very hot, and the ground perfectly 
dry; windmills, to raise water for artificial irrigation of small 
patches, seen all over the landscape, while we travel through square 
miles of hot dust, where they tell us, and truly that in winter and 
early spring we should be up to our knees in flowers; a country, 
too, where surface gold-digging is so common and unnoticed that 
the large, six-horse stage<oach, in which I travelled from Stockton 
to Hornitos, turned off in the high road for a Chinaman, who, with 
his pan and washer, was working up a hole which an American had 
abandoned, but where the minute and patient industry of the China- 
man averaged a few dollars a day. 

These visits were so full of interest, with grandeurs and humors 
of all sorts, that I am strongly tempted to describe them. But I 
remember that I am not to write a journal of a visit over the new 
California, but to sketch briefly the contrasts with the old spots of 
1835-6, and I forbear. 

How strange and eventful has been the brief history of this mar- 
vellous city, San Francisco! In 1835 there was one board shanty. In 
1836, one adobe house on the same spot. In 1847, a population of 
four hundred and fifty persons, who organized a town government. 
Then came the auri sacra fames, the flocking together of many of 
the worst spirits of Christendom; a sudden birth of a city of canvas 
and boards, entirely destroyed by fire five times in eighteen months, 
with a loss of sixteen millions of dollars, and as often rebuilt, until 
it became a solid city of brick and stone, of nearly one hundred thou- 
sand inhabitants, with all the accompaniments of wealth and culture, 
and now (in 1859) the most quiet and well-governed city of its size 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 393 

in the United States. But it has been through its season- of Heaven- 
defying crime, violence, and blood, from which it was rescued and 
handed back to soberness, morality, and good government, by that 
peculiar invention of Anglo-Saxon Republican America, the solemn, 
awe-inspiring Vigilance Committee of the most grave and respon- 
sible citizens, the last resort of the thinking and the good, taken 
to only when vice, fraud, and ruffianism have intrenched themselves 
behind the forms of law, suffrage, and ballot, and there is no hope 
but in organized force, whose action must be instant and thorough, 
or its state will be worse than before. A history of the passage of this 
city through those ordeals, and through its almost incredible finan- 
cial extremes, should be written by a pen which not only accuracy 
shall govern, but imagination shall inspire. 

I cannot pause for the civility of referring to the many kind atten- 
tions I received, and the society of educated men and women from 
all parts of the Union I met with; where New England, the Caro- 
linas, Virginia, and the new West sat side by side with English, 
French, and German civilization. 

My stay in California was interrupted by an absence of nearly 
four months, when I sailed for the Sandwich Islands in the noble 
Boston clipper ship Mastiff, which was burned at sea to the water's 
edge; we escaping in boats, and carried by a friendly British bark 
into Honolulu, whence, after a deeply interesting visit of three 
months in that most fascinating group of islands, with its natural 
and its moral wonders, I returned to San Francisco in an American 
whaler, and found myself again in my quarters on the morning of 
Sunday, December nth, 1859. 

My first visit after my return was to Sacramento, a city of about 
forty thousand inhabitants, more than a hundred miles inland from 
San Francisco, on the Sacramento, where was the capital of the 
State, and where were fleets of river steamers, and a large inland 
commerce. Here I saw the inauguration of a Governor, Mr. Latham, 
a young man from Massachusetts, much my junior; and met a 
member of the State Senate, a man who, as a carpenter, repaired my 
father's house at home some ten years before; and two more Senators 
from southern California, relics of another age, — Don Andres Pico, 
from San Diego; and Don Pablo de la Guerra, whom I have men- 



394 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

tioned as meeting at Santa Barbara. I had a good deal of conversa- 
tion with these gentlemen, who stood alone in an assembly of Amer- 
icans, who had conquered their country, spared pillars of the past. 
Don Andres had fought us at San Pazqual and Sepulveda's rancho, 
in 1846, and as he fought bravely, not a common thing among the 
Mexicans, and, indeed, repulsed Kearney, is always treated with 
respect. He had the satisfaction, dear to the proud Spanish heart, 
of making a speech before a Senate of Americans, in favor of the 
retention in ofSce of an officer of our army who was wounded at 
San Pazqual and whom some wretched caucus was going to displace 
to carry out a political job. Don Andres's magnanimity and indigna- 
tion carried the day. 

My last visit in this part of the country was to a new and rich 
farming region, the Napa Valley, the United States Navy Yard at 
Mare Island, the river gold workings, and the Geysers, and old Mr. 
John Yount's rancho. On board the steamer, found Mr. Edward 
Stanley, formerly member of Congress from North Carolina, who 
became my companion for the greater part of my trip. I also met — 
a revival on the spot of an acquaintance of twenty years ago — Don 
Guadalupe Vallejo; I may say acquaintance, for although I was then 
before the mast, he knew my story, and, as he spoke English well, 
used to hold many conversations with me, when in the boat or on 
shore. He received me with true earnestness, and would not hear 
of my passing his estate without visiting him. He reminded me of a 
remark I made to him once, when pulling him ashore in the boat, 
when he was commandante at the Presidio. I learned that the two 
Vallejos, Guadalupe and Salvador, owned, at an early time, nearly 
all Napa and Sonoma, having princely estates. But they have not 
much left. They were nearly ruined by their bargain with the State, 
that they would put up the public buildings if the Capital should be 
placed at Vallejo, then a town of some promise. They spent $100,000, 
the Capital was moved there, and in two years removed to San Jose 
on another contract. The town fell to pieces, and the houses, chiefly 
wooden, were taken down and removed. I accepted the old gentle- 
man's invitation so far as to stop at Vallejo to breakfast. 

The United States Navy Yard, at Mare Island, near Vallejo, is 
large and well placed, with deep fresh water. The old Independence, 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 395 

and the sloop Decatur, and two steamers were there, and they were 
experimenting on building a despatch boat, the Saginaw, of Califor- 
nia timber. 

I have no excuse for attempting to describe my visit through the 
fertile and beautiful Napa Valley, nor even, what exceeded that in 
interest, my visit to old John Yount at his rancho, where I heard 
from his own lips some of his most interesting stories of hunting and 
trapping and Indian lighting, during an adventurous life of forty 
years of such work, between our back settlements in Missouri and 
Arkansas, and the mountains of California, trapping in Colorado 
and Gila, — and his celebrated dream, thrice repeated, which led him 
to organize a party to go out over the mountains, that did actually 
rescue from death by starvation the wretched remnants of the Don- 
ner Party. 

I must not pause for the dreary country of the Geysers, the scream- 
ing escapes of steam, the sulphur, the boiling caldrons of black and 
yellow and green, and the region of Gehenna, through which runs 
a quiet stream of pure water; nor for the park scenery, and capti- 
vating ranchos of the Napa Valley, where farming is done on so 
grand a scale, — where I have seen a man plough a furrow by little 
red flags on sticks, to keep his range by, until nearly out of sight, 
and where, the wits tell us, he returns the next day on the back fur- 
row; a region where, at Christmas time, I have seen old strawberries 
still on the vines, by the side of vines in full blossom for the next 
crop, and grapes in the same stages, and open windows, and yet a 
grateful wood fire on the hearth in early morning; nor for the 
titanic operations of hydraulic surface mining, where large mountain 
streams are diverted from their ancient beds, and made to do the 
work, beyond the reach of all other agents, of washing out valleys 
and carrying away hills, and changing the whole surface of the 
country, to expose the stores of gold hidden for centuries in the 
darkness of their earthly depths. 

January loth, i860. I am again in San Francisco, and my revisit 
to California is closed. I have touched too Ughtly and rapidly for 
much impression upon the reader on my last visit into the interior; 
but, as I have said, in a mere continuation to a narrative of a sea- 
faring life on the coast, I am only to carry the reader vdth me on a 



396 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

visit to those scenes in which the pubHc has long manifested so 
gratifying an interest. But it seemed to me that slight notices of 
these entirely new parts of the country would not be out of place, 
for they serve to put in strong contrast with the solitudes of 1835-6 
the developed interior, with its mines, and agricultural wealth, and 
rapidly fiUing population, and its large cities, so far from the coast, 
with their education, religion, arts, and trade. 

On the morning of the nth January, i860, 1 passed, for the eighth 
time, through the Golden Gate, on my way across the delightful 
Pacific to the Oriental world, with its civiUzation three thousand 
years older than that I was leaving behind. As the shores of Cali- 
fornia faded in the distance, and the summits of the Coast Range 
sank under the blue horizon, I bade farewell — yes, I do not doubt, 
forever — to those scenes which, however changed or unchanged, 
must always possess an ineffable interest for me. 



It is time my fellow-travellers and I should part company. But I 
have been requested by a great many persons to give some account 
of the subsequent history of the vessels and their crews, with which 
I had made them acquainted. I attempt the following sketches in 
deference to these suggestions, and not, I trust, with any undue 
estimate of the general interest my narrative may have created. 

Something less than a year after my return in the Alert, and when, 
my eyes having recovered, I was again in college life, I found one 
morning in the newspapers, among the arrivals of the day before, 
"The brig Pilgrim, Faucon, from San Diego, California." In a few 
hours I was down in Ann Street, and on my way to Hackstadt's 
boarding-house, where I knew Tom Harris and others would lodge. 
Entering the front room, I heard my name called from amid a 
group of blue-jackets, and several sunburned, tar-colored men came 
forward to speak to me. They were, at first, a little embarrassed by 
the dress and style in which they had never seen me, and one of 
them was calling me Mr. Dana; but I soon stopped that, and we 
were shipmates once more. First, there was Tom Harris, in a char- 
acteristic occupation, I had made him promise to come and see me 
when we parted in San Diego; he had got a directory of Boston, 
found the street and number of my father's house, and, by a study 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 397 

of the plan of the city, had laid out his course, and was committing 
it to memory. He said he could go straight to the house without 
asking a question. And so he could, for I took the book from him, 
and he gave his course, naming each street and turn to right or left, 
direcdy to the door. 

Tom had been second mate of the Pilgrim, and had laid up no 
mean sum of money. True to his resolution, he was going to Eng- 
land to find his mother, and he entered into the comparative advan- 
tages of taking his money home in gold or in bills, — a matter of 
some moment, as this was in the disastrous financial year of 1837. 
He seemed to have his ideas well arranged, but I took him to a 
leading banker, whose advice he followed; and, declining my invi- 
tation to go up and show himself to my friends, he was off for New 
York that afternoon, to sail the next day for Liverpool. The last I 
ever saw of Tom Harris was as he passed down Tremont Street 
on the sidewalk, a man dragging a hand-cart in the street by his 
side, on which were his voyage-worn chest, his mattress, and a box 
of nautical instruments. 

Sam seemed to have got funny again, and he and John the Swede 
learned that Captain Thompson had several months before sailed 
in command of a ship for the coast of Sumatra, and that their chance 
of proceedings against him at law was hopeless. Sam was after- 
wards lost in a brig off the coast of Brazil, when all hands went 
down. Of John and the rest of the men I have never heard. The 
Marblehead boy, Sam, turned out badly; and, although he had influ- 
endal friends, never allowed them to improve his condition. The 
old carpenter, the Fin, of whom the cook stood in such awe (^ante 
p. 41), had fallen sick and died in Santa Barbara, and was buried 
ashore. Jim Hall, from the Kennebec, who sailed with us before 
the mast, and was made second mate in Foster's place, came home 
chief mate of the Pilgrim. I have often seen him since. His lot has 
been prosperous, as he well deserved it should be. He has com- 
manded the largest ships, and when I last saw him, was going to the 
Pacific coast of South America, to take charge of a line of mail 
steamers. Poor, luckless Foster I have twice seen. He came into 
my rooms in Boston, after I had become a barrister and my narrative 
had been published, and told me he was chief mate of a big ship; 



398 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

that he had heard I had said some things unfavorable of him in 
my book; that he had just bought it, and was going to read it that 
night, and if I had said anything unfair of him, he would punish me 
if he found me in State Street. I surveyed him from head to foot, 
and said to him, "Foster, you were not a formidable man when I 
last knew you, and I don't believe you are now." Either he was of 
my opinion, or thought I had spoken of him well enough, for the 
next (and last) time I met him he was civil and pleasant. 

I believe I omitted to state that Mr. Andrew B. Amerzene, the 
chief mate of the Pilgrim, an estimable, kind, and trustworthy man, 
had a difficulty with Captain Faucon, who thought him slack, was 
turned off duty, and sent home with us in the Alert. Captain 
Thompson, instead of giving him the place of a mate off duty, put 
him into the narrow between-decks, where a space, not over four 
feet high, had been left out among the hides, and there compelled 
him to live the whole wearisome voyage, through trades and tropics, 
and round Cape Horn, with nothing to do, — not allowed to converse 
or walk with the officers, and obliged to get his grub himself from 
the galley, in the tin pot and kid of a common sailor. I used to talk 
with him as much as I had opportunity to, but his lot was wretched, 
and in every way wounding to his feelings. After our arrival. Cap- 
tain Thompson was obliged to make him compensation for this 
treatment. It happens that I have never heard of him since. 

Henry Melius, who had been in a counting-house in Boston, and 
left the forecastle, on the coast, to be agent's clerk, and whom I met, 
a married man, at Los Angeles in 1859, died at that place a few 
years ago, not having been successful in commercial life. Ben Stim- 
son left the sea for the fresh water and prairies, and settled in Detroit 
as a merchant, and when I visited that city, in 1863, I was rejoiced 
to find him a prosperous and respected man, and the same generous- 
hearted shipmate as ever. 

This ends the catalogue of the Pilgrim's original crew, except her 
first master. Captain Thompson. He was not employed by the same 
firm again, and got up a voyage to the coast of Sumatra for pepper. 
A cousin and classmate of mine, Mr. Channing, went as supercargo, 
not having consulted me as to the captain. First, Captain Thompson 
got into difficulties with another American vessel on the coast, which 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 399 

charged him with having taken some advantage of her in getting 
pepper; and then with the natives, who accused him of having ob- 
tained too much pepper for his weights. The natives seized him, one 
afternoon, as he landed in his boat, and demanded of him to sign 
an order on the supercargo for the Spanish dollars that they said 
were due them, on pain of being imprisoned on shore. He never 
failed in pluck, and now ordered his boat aboard, leaving him 
ashore, the officer to tell the supercargo to obey no direction except 
under his hand. For several successive days and nights, his ship, 
the Alciope, lay in the burning sun, with rain-squalls and thunder- 
clouds coming over the high mountains, waiting for a word from 
him. Toward evening of the fourth or fifth day he was seen on 
the beach, hailing for the boat. The natives, finding they could not 
force more money from him, were afraid to hold him longer, and 
had let him go. He sprang into the boat, urged her off with the 
utmost eagerness, leaped on board the ship like a tiger, his eyes 
flashing and his face full of blood, ordered the anchor aweigh, and 
the topsails set, the four guns, two on a side, loaded with all sorts 
of devilish stuff, and wore her round, and, keeping as close into the 
bamboo village as he could, gave them both broadsides, slam-bang 
into the midst of the houses and people, and stood out to sea! As 
his excitement passed off, headache, languor, fever, set in, — the 
deadly coast-fever, contracted from the water and night-dews on 
shore and his maddened temper. He ordered the ship to Penang, 
and never saw the deck again. He died on the passage, and was 
buried at sea. Mr. Channing, who took care of him in his sickness 
and delirium, caught the fever from him, but, as we gratefully re- 
member, did not die until the ship made port, and he was under 
the kindly roof of a hospitable family in Penang. The chief mate, 
also, took the fever, and the second mate and crew deserted; and 
although the chief mate recovered and took the ship to Europe and 
home, the voyage was a melancholy disaster. In a tour I made round 
the world in 1 859-1 860, of which my revisit to California was the 
beginning, I went to Penang. In that fairy-like scene of sea and sky 
and shore, as beautiful as material earth can be, with its fruits and 
flowers of a perpetual summer, — somewhere in which still lurks the 
deadly fever, — I found the tomb of my kinsman, classmate, and 



400 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

friend. Standing beside his grave, I tried not to think that his hfe 
had been sacrificed to the faults and violence of another; I tried 
not to think too hardly of that other, who at least had suffered in 
death. 

The dear old Pilgrim herself! She was sold, at the end of this 
voyage, to a merchant in New Hampshire, who employed her on 
short voyages, and, after a few years, I read of her total loss at sea, 
by fire, off the coast of North Carolina. 

Captain Faucon, who took out the Alert, and brought home the 
Pilgrim, spent many years in command of vessels in the Indian and 
Chinese seas, and was in our volunteer navy during the late war, 
commanding several large vessels in succession, on the blockade 
of the Carolinas, with the rank of lieutenant. He has now given 
up the sea, but still keeps it under his eye, from the piazza of his 
house on the most beautiful hill in the environs of Boston. I have 
the pleasure of meeting him often. Once, in speaking of the Alert's 
crew, in a company of gentlemen, I heard him say that that crew 
was exceptional: that he had passed all his life at sea, but whether 
before the mast or abaft, whether officer or master, he had never 
met such a crew, and never should expect to; and that the two 
officers of the Alert, long ago shipmasters, agreed with him that, 
for intelligence, knowledge of duty and willingness to perform it, 
pride in the ship, her appearance and sailing, and in absolute relia- 
bleness, they never had seen their equal. Especially he spoke of his 
favorite seaman, French John. John, after a few more years at sea, 
became a boatman, and kept his neat boat at the end of Granite 
Wharf, and was ready to take all, but delighted to take any of us 
of the old Alert's crew, to sail down the harbor. One day Captain 
Faucon went to the end of the wharf to board a vessel in the stream, 
and hailed for John. There was no response, and his boat was not 
there. He inquired of a boatman near, where John was. The time 
had come that comes to all! There was no loyal voice to respond 
to the familiar call, the hatches had closed over him, his boat was 
sold to another, and he had left not a trace behind. We could not 
find out even where he was buried. 

Mr. Richard Brown, of Marblehead, our chief mate in the Alert, 
commanded many of our noblest ships in the European trade, a 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 4OI 

general favorite. A few years ago, while stepping on board his ship 
from the wharf, he fell from the plank into the hold and was killed. 
If he did not actually die at sea, at least he died as a sailor, — he died 
on board ship. 

Our second mate, Evans, no one liked or cared for, and I know 
nothing of him, except that I once saw him in court, on trial for 
some alleged petty tyranny towards his men, — still a subaltern 
officer. 

The third mate, Mr. Hatch, a nephew of one of the owners, 
though only a lad on board the ship, went out chief mate the next 
voyage, and rose soon to command some of the finest clippers in the 
California and India trade, under the new order of things, — a man 
of character, good judgment, and no little cultivation. 

Of the other men before the mast in the Alert, I know nothing 
of peculiar interest. When visiting, with a party of ladies and gentle- 
men, one of our largest line-of-battle ships, we were escorted about 
the decks by a midshipman, who was explaining various matters 
on board, when one of the party came to me and told me that there 
was an old sailor there with a whistle round his neck, who looked 
at me and said of the officer, "he can't show him anything aboard a 
ship." I found him out, and, looking into his sunburnt face, covered 
with hair, and his little eyes drawn up into the smallest passages for 
light, — ^like a man who had peered into hundreds of northeasters, — 
there was old "Sails" of the Alert, clothed in all the honors of 
boatswain's-mate. We stood aside, out of the cun of the officers, and 
had a good talk over old times. I remember the contempt with 
which he turned on his heel to conceal his face, when the midship- 
man (who was a grown youth) could not tell the ladies the length 
of a fathom, and said it depended on circumstances. Notwithstand- 
ing his advice and consolation to "Chips," in the steerage of the 
Alert, and his story of his runaway wife and the flag-bottomed chairs 
{ante, p. 249), he confessed to me that he had tried marriage again, 
and had a little tenement just outside the gate of the yard. 

Harry Bennett, the man who had the palsy, and was unfeelingly 
left on shore when the Alert sailed, came home in the Pilgrim, and 
I had the pleasure of helping to get him into the Massachusetts Gen- 
eral Hospital. When he had been there about a week, I went to see 



402 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

him in his ward, and asked him how he got along. "Oh! first-rate 
usage, sir; not a hand's turn to do, and all your grub brought to 
you, sir." This is a sailor's paradise, — not a hand's turn to do, and 
all your grub brought to you. But an earthly paradise may pall. 
Bennett got tired of in-doors and stillness, and was soon out again, 
and set up a stall, covered with canvas, at the end of one of the 
bridges, where he could see all the passers-by, and turn a penny by 
cakes and ale. The stall in time disappeared, and I could learn 
nothing of his last end, if it has come. 

Of the lads who, beside myself, composed the gig's crew, I know 
something of all but one. Our bright-eyed, quick-witted little cock- 
swain, from the Boston public schools, Harry May, or Harry Bluff, 
as he was called, with all his songs and gibes, went the road to ruin 
as fast as the usual means could carry him. Nat, the "bucket- 
maker," grave and sober, left the seas, and, I believe, is a hack-driver 
in his native town, although I have not had the luck to see him since 
the Alert hauled into her berth at the North End. 

One cold winter evening, a pull at the bell, and a woman in dis- 
tress wished to see me. Her poor son George, — George Somerby, — 
"you remember him, sir; he was a boy in the Alert; he always talks 
of you, — he is dying in my poor house." I went with her, and in a 
small room, with the most scanty furniture, upon a mattress on the 
floor, — emaciated, ashy pale, with hollow voice and sunken eyes, — 
lay the boy George, whom we took out a small, bright boy of four- 
teen from a Boston public school, who fought himself into a position 
on board ship {ante, p. 231), and whom we brought home a tall, 
athletic youth, that might have been the pride and support of his 
widowed mother. There he lay, not over nineteen years of age, 
ruined by every vice a sailor's life absorbs. He took my hand in his 
wasted feeble fingers, and talked a little with his hollow, death- 
smitten voice. I was to leave town the next day for a fortnight's 
absence, and whom had they to see to them? The mother named 
her landlord, — she knew no one else able to do much for them. It 
was the name of a physician of wealth and high social position, well 
known in the city as the owner of many small tenements, and of 
whom hard things had been said as to his strictness in collecting 
what he thought his dues. Be that as it may, my memory associates 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 403 

him only with ready and active beneficence. His name has since 
been known the civilized world over, from his having been the 
victim of one of the most painful tragedies in the records of the 
criminal law. I tried the experiment of calling upon him; and, hav- 
ing drawn him away from the cheerful fire, sofa, and curtains of a 
luxurious parlor, I told him the simple tale of woe, of one of his 
tenants, unknown to him even by name. He did not hesitate; and 
I well remember how, in that biting, eager air, at a late hour, he 
drew his cloak about his thin and bent form, and walked off with 
me across the Common, and to the South End, nearly two miles 
of an exposed walk, to the scene of misery. He gave his full share, 
and more, of kindness and material aid; and, as George's mother 
told me, on my return, had with medical aid and stores, and a 
clergyman, made the boy's end as comfortable and hopeful as pos- 
sible. 

The Alert made two more voyages to the coast of California, suc- 
cessful, and without a mishap, as usual, and was sold by Messrs. 
Bryant and Sturgis, in 1843, to Mr. Thomas W. Williams, a mer- 
chant of New London, Connecticut, who employed her in the whale- 
trade in the Pacific. She was as lucky and prosperous there as in 
the merchant service. When I was at the Sandwich Islands in i860, 
a man was introduced to me as having commanded the Alert on two 
cruises, and his friends told me that he was as proud of it as if he had 
commanded a frigate. 

I am permitted to publish the following letter from the owner of 
the Alert, giving her later record and her historic end, — captured 
and burned by the rebel Alabama: — 

New London, March 17, 1868. 
Richard H. Dana, Esq.: 

Dear Sir, — I am happy to acknowledge the receipt of your favor 
of the 14th inst., and to answer your inquiries about the good ship 
Alert. I bought her of Messrs. Bryant and Sturgis in the year 1843, 
for my firm of Williams and Haven, for a whaler, in which business 
she was successful until captured by the rebel steamer Alabama, 
September, 1862, making a period of more than nineteen years, 
during which she took and delivered at New London upwards of 



404 RICHARD HENRY DANA, JR. 

twenty-five thousand barrels of whale and sperm oil. She sailed 
last from this port, August 30, 1862, for Kurd's Island (the newly 
discovered land south of Kerguelen's), commanded by Edwin 
Church, and was captured and burned on the 9th of September 
following, only ten days out, near or close to the Azores, with thirty 
barrels of sperm oil on board, and while her boats were off in pur- 
suit of whales. 

The Alert was a favorite ship with all owners, officers, and men 
who had anything to do with her; and I may add almost all who 
heard her name asked if that was the ship the man went in who 
wrote the book called "Two Years before the Mast"; and thus we 
feel, with you, no doubt, a sort of sympathy at her loss, and that, too, 
in such a manner, and by wicked acts of our own countrymen. 

My partner, Mr. Haven, sends me a note from the office this P. M., 
saying that he had just found the last log-book, and would send up 
this evening a copy of the last entry on it; and if there should be 
anything of importance I will enclose it to you, and if you have any 
further inquiries to put, I will, with great pleasure, endeavor to 
answer them. 

Remaining very respectfully and truly yours, 

Thomas W. Williams. 

P. S. — Since writing the above I have received the extract from 
the log-book, and enclose the same. 

The last Entry in the Ijog-Boo\ of the Alert. 

"September 9, 1862. 
"Shortly after the ship came to the wind, with the main yard 
aback, we went alongside and were hoisted up, when we found we 
were prisoners of war, and our ship a prize to the Confederate 
steamer Alabama. We were then ordered to give up all nautical 
instruments and letters appertaining to any of us. Afterwards we 
were offered the privilege, as they called it, of joining the steamer or 
signing a parole of honor not to serve in the army or navy of the 
United States. Thank God no one accepted the former of these 
offers. We were all then ordered to get our things ready in haste, to 
go on shore, — the ship running off shore all the time. We were 
allowed four boats to go on shore in, and when we had got what 



TWENTY-FOUR YEARS AFTER 405 

things we could take in them, were ordered to get into the boats 
and pull for the shore, — the nearest land being about fourteen miles 
off, — which we reached in safety, and, shortly after, saw the ship 
in flames. 

"So end all our bright prospects, blasted by a gang of miscreants, 
who certainly can have no regard for humanity so long as they con- 
tinue to foster their so-called peculiar institution, which is now de- 
stroying our country." 

I love to think that our noble ship, with her long record of good 
service and uniform success, attractive and beloved in her life, should 
have passed, at her death, into the lofty regions of international 
jurisprudence and debate, forming a part of the body of the "Ala- 
bama Claims"; that, like a true ship, committed to her element 
once for all at her launching, she perished at sea, and, without an 
extreme use of language, we may say, a victim in the cause of her 
country. R. H. D., Jr. 

Boston, May 6, 1869.